Community rallies to protest local man's deportation

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BRATTLEBORO — On Thursday, Brattleboro community member Mamadou Bah was spirited away to Canada to avoid being deported to his native Guinea West Africa, from where he fled in 2002.

Bah had been told by the United States Customs and Immigration Services to turn himself in on Thursday for his return to his native country. According to Lost River Racial Justice, which has been advocating for him to stay in Vermont, Mamadou was a political prisoner before fleeing Guinea in 2002.

Bah's wife, Shawna Jenelle Bah, posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon that Canada gave her husband asylum and will allow him to stay until June 18, 2018.

"He'll be with his nephew who lives just over the Vermont border in Quebec," wrote Bah on Facebook. "We will continue to apply for his return to Vermont; in the meantime we can visit anytime."

Bah told Lost River Racial Justice that he feared death if he was returned to his home country.

Members of the community are invited to a rally on Saturday, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Pliny Park, to show support for Bah and his family and demand that USCIS change its immigration policy to stop splitting up families and stop deporting immigrants. This event is co-organized by The Root Social Justice Center and its People of Color Caucus, Brattleboro Solidarity, and Lost River Racial Justice.

Bah's order of deportation was issued on July 14, when he and his wife traveled to St. Albans for an appointment with the USCIS office.

When Bah first arrived in the United States, he spent his first days riding the subway in New York City, not knowing where to get off, until he found a man at the station who spoke his language. "After three long days on the subway, he discovered he had only been a block away from his destination," said Shawna Bah. "A month after arriving in New York City, his wife at that time died in an accident along with their unborn child, a daughter, back in his home country."

Even though Bah was told to leave in 2009, he remained in the United States, she said.

"Mamadou has never been in trouble with the law. Not even a parking ticket. His fingerprints were run the day we went to USCIS and nothing came up on his record. He is well liked in his Brattleboro community, a hard worker, and loved by his family and friends. He is a proud Muslim and has spoken about Islam to many area churches in Brattleboro as a guest speaker."

Shawna Bah, her children and the community are hoping to find a way to keep him from being deported.

"When Mamadou and I were married, he became a stepfather to my children," said Shawna Bah. "My 15-year-old daughter loves him dearly. Though she is disabled; legally blind, autistic, and nonverbal, they communicate in a way that can make your heart smile. She would be devastated if he were gone. Mamadou and I have a son together, who is very much a daddy's boy. He was born in 2013 and with only one functioning kidney. Though he is healthy, this requires traveling to Lebanon, N.H., to go to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center every six months so that the doctors can monitor the function of his good kidney. For these two reasons, living in Guinea would not be a realistic plan for my family if he were indeed deported."

Mamadou Bah's tenuous situation has also been a drain on the family's finances, she said.

"Financially this is all very draining to support a family of six. With the cost of travel to and from USCIS, trips to Dartmouth, and the cost of lawyer fees, gas, babysitting, and our everyday bills, this situation has put an even larger strain on the family. We are asking for any support that could lessen our financial burden."

The Root Social Justice Center provides a physically and financially accessible space in southern Vermont for social justice groups to meet and is a hub for racial justice organizing. Brattleboro Solidarity is a group located in southern Vermont, acting with the people of the world who are resisting injustices. Their organizing is rooted in deepening knowledge and building the world we wish to see.

Lost River Racial Justice is an affiliate of the national organization Showing Up for Racial Justice. Members do local community organizing using a racial justice lens and work to build accountable relationships with people of color-led organizations.

For a Facebook interview with Bah, conducted by Ezlerh Oreste, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheRootSocialJusticeCenter/videos/994315204039867.

For more information, email lostriverrj@gmail.com. For updates and to make a donation to help the Bah family pay for lawyer fees and medical and everyday needs, visit https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/yl8qg1/donate.


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