UPDATE: After recent conversations with immigration officials, Chicago resident Eugene Peba believes he may be deported to Nigeria as soon as Friday, according to his wife Nicole Peba.
A spokeswoman for ICE, Gail Montenegro, declined to provide a date for Peba’s deportation. “For operational security reasons ICE never releases details about an individual’s scheduled removal,” Montenegro said in an email on Tuesday.
Nicole visited her husband again on Tuesday in the Wisconsin detention facility where he is being held on a deportation order.
Homeland Security officials have denied an official request by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) to prevent Peba’s deportation, a spokeswoman for Schakowsky said.
Peba, a Nigerian immigrant who had applied unsuccessfully for asylum, remains in federal custody after his May 4 arrest on a deportation order. Peba’s wife, an American and Chicago native, had petitioned the government to recognize their marriage as legitimate, but her petition was denied last month.
[Follow Peba’s situation in Photo Slideshow: Wife visits husband Eugene Peba detained for deportation, An American Dream: permission pending and Eugene Peba: A Nigerian’s fight for survival and protection, listen to an interview with him on WBEZ, and read the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune accounts of his arrest. Northwestern University has also made its community aware of the story in Medill’s Immigrant Connect Story Back in the News.]
Peba’s attorney says he is appealing the denial of Peba’s wife’s petition and has filed a habeas corpus petition to have Peba released as it pends.
His wife, Nicole, went to visit him in the Kenosha, WI detention center where he is currently being held last Tuesday, but could not see him because he had already had a visitor that week. [See the photo slideshow here.]
Schakowsky had asked officials for a stay of removal, which would prevent Peba’s deportation while the appeal was pending, the congresswoman’s district director Leslie Combs confirmed Wednesday.
“She wanted to communicate to ICE that she was hoping they would be compassionate and let him stay as his application was filed,” Combs told Immigrant Connect.
But on May 11 officials declined the request, Combs said, citing a misdemeanor related to Peba’s entrance into the country.
Peba was detained in 2005 after surrendering an illegitimate British passport upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. He spent two years in detention on immigration charges and has no criminal record since his 2007 release from custody.
[Follow Peba’s situation in An American Dream: permission pending and in Eugene Peba: A Nigerian’s fight for survival and protection, listen to an interview with him on WBEZ, and read the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune accounts of his arrest. Northwestern University has also made its community aware of the story in Medill’s Immigrant Connect Story Back in the News.]
An ICE spokeswoman, Gail Montenegro, declined to respond to an email sent Thursday about Schakowsky’s request and the status of Peba’s case.
Peba’s arrest is one of a handful in which Schakowsky’s office has argued for leniency for a constituent, Combs said.
Just last week, after a call from the congresswoman, ICE released Skokie resident Mikola Tytla from detention and granted his family a one-year deportation stay.
In arguing for leniency for Peba, Tytla and others, Schakowsky’s office cited a June 2011 memorandum from ICE director John Morton urging agents to focus on criminal offenders and use discretion with immigrants who pose little risk to the public.
Since the fall, Schakowsky’s office has helped secure three stays of removal, including Tytla’s, but they are concerned about other cases, Combs said.
“Unfortunately we know that there are people being deported every day who really should qualify for prosecutorial discretion based on the Morton memo,” Combs said. “That’s very frustrating.”
Montenegro has told Immigrant Connect that ICE considers every removal case carefully and has concluded Peba does not meet the guidelines for prosecutorial discretion.
“ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement,” Montenegro wrote in a statement earlier this month, “that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers, and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States or those with outstanding deportation orders.â€
As Peba’s relatives await the outcome of his appeal, several have told Immigrant Connect they fear for his safety should he get deported.
Speaking by phone from Lagos, Nigeria, last week, Peba’s uncle Precious Mark said his nephew could face grave danger in his home country.
“It’s very, very unsafe,” Mark said.
Mark said Peba, who documented a history of torture as part of his unsuccessful asylum claim, could be targeted by anti-government militants in the Ogoni River state.
“They’d be hunting for him,” Mark said. “I think they would take his life.”
Johnson Ngozi, 51, another uncle of Peba, expressed similar concerns.
“If they bring him back, they will kill him,” said Ngozi, who grew up in Nigeria but now lives in Memphis. “I promise you, they will kill him.”
Check back soon for further updates.