Detainee's wife: I don't know if there is preparation

February 22, 2019 07:09 PM

ALBANY- The last 30 days have not been easy for Lisa Pepper-Ngoran. One month ago, on January 23, ICE agents took her husband Kinimo into custody. He's been locked up in a federal detention facility in Batavia, N.Y. ever since his arrest.

"I'm constantly thinking about ways to keep him connected here while he does whatever he has to do in the routine there," Lisa said.


Lisa's routine in the Capital Region are days filled with constant worry that Kinimo could be deported at any time. When Lisa visits her husband on weekends, she's noticed a difference in his demeanor.

"There was definitely strain," she said. "I think it's the strain and things happening so quickly. As much as I have to adjust, I can't imagine what he and others in his position who just have an instant change of lifestyle in a matter of minutes, I don't know what's adjusted."

Lisa says she's grateful for the groundswell of community support, including the words of Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple who wrote on his Facebook page, "Enough is enough," opining that the government's treatment of Kinimo is "immoral and wrong."

However, many public comments on the sheriff's Facebook page were a sharp contrast to Apple's position.

Dan wrote, "They should be sitting in handcuffs on a plane back to the country they came from."

Lorrie wrote, "He should have taken proper steps and did things legally."

Meghan wrote, "So I guess it's ok to break the law in the city of Albany as long as you're otherwise a good person."

And Mark suggested, "Don't blame Trump or ICE. For once we are enforcing existing laws.

Lisa Pepper-Ngoran says her family has shielded her from such comments.

"It doesn't get to me because I haven't read them," she said. "A difference of opinion is one thing, but hurt and unkind words aren't ok."

Kinimo Ngoran's legal team released the following statement:

"Due to increasing public interest in the case of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) unlawfully detention of Kinimo Ngoran – and in light of the upcoming hearing in Federal Court on February 25, 2019 – his legal team, comprised of a coalition of five attorneys and eight law student interns from New York City, to Albany, to Buffalo, New York, issue the following statement: ICE unlawfully seized Mr. Ngoran on January 23, 2019, and have detained him ever since. ICE have torn Mr. Ngoran away from his community in spite of his active efforts to pursue the process made available to him to obtain lawful status. For over a decade, Mr. Ngoran has volunteered and lawfully worked in the kitchens of homeless shelters in New York City and Albany, New York. He has consistently cooperated with immigration authorities over the course of his various applications for status. His detention is cruel and counterproductive – it serves no purpose. Mr. Ngoran fled to the United States from ongoing political unrest in his home country of Côte D’Ivoire. Since then, he has dutifully attempted to navigate the labyrinth of a broken immigration system in spite of first arriving with limited English proficiency and limited literacy. Since arriving, he has been a pillar of the community, volunteering and then obtaining employment in the kitchens of missions serving the neediest Americans. Based on the strength of his character, Mr. Ngoran’s his case has garnered the support of numerous public officials, including Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, who has been steadfast and vocal in supporting Mr. Ngoran since ICE tore him away from the Albany community. Shortly after his detention, Mr. Ngoran’s community quickly mobilized to assemble a team of lawyers who filed an emergency petition in federal court, seeking to challenge his detention and the rushed effort to deport him on the grounds that it violates his constitutionally protected rights. On February 1, 2019, a District Court Judge in the Western District of New York temporarily restrained ICE from removing Mr. Ngoran from the United States until his case could be heard. On February 4, 2019, Mr. Ngoran’s counsel presented his legal claims for relief. The United States Attorney argued in opposition, and the Judge ordered a briefing schedule on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction, and set oral argument for February 25, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. Notably, the restraining order on Mr. Ngoran’s removal was also extended, prevented his deportation. At this time, briefs have been filed by Mr. Ngoran and the United States Attorney’s office representing the government. The hearing on February 25th will be pivotal, as ICE/ERO has not acknowledged a separate administrative request for a stay – meaning the Mr. Ngoran could be at risk of deportation should the Judge revoke the protections provided by the temporary stay currently in place. The hearing on February 25, 2019, may be dispositive and may determine whether Mr. Ngoran will be allowed to stay in the United States prior to obtaining lawful status, or whether he will be deported and separated from his life with his wife, Lisa Pepper-Ngoran. Press inquiries are welcome after the 25th and the legal team will be available to answer questions at the conclusion of the hearing. However, due to the sensitive nature of the case, we will not be commenting further until that time.

The hearing in federal court in Rochester on Monday may be dispositive and may determine whether Mr. Ngoran will be allowed to stay in the United States prior to obtaining lawful status, or whether he will be deported and separated from his life and his wife.


Dan Levy

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