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Supporters rally for Detroit father facing deportation

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A small crowd rallied in front of Detroit’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Friday, calling on the agency to release Banny Doumbia.

Doumbia is an Ivory Coast native and Detroit father who has been in the U.S. for nearly 30 years. His family says he was detained without explanation after a routine ICE check-in last week.

Doumbia has been under ICE supervision since 2004. The agency says he has “multiple federal felony convictions for offenses including theft and bank fraud.” Those cases date back to 1999 and 2000, according to federal court records.

Doumbia’s family and supporters say that in the years since, Doumbia has built a small car repair shop and taxi service in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. He’s also the co-founder of a local Islamic center, and community leader who’s met multiple times with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as president of the United African Communities Association.

Doumbia is also the father of four U.S.-born children. His daughter Nabintou Doumbia says he’s the sole supporter for the family, including two daughters currently in graduate school and college.

“We’re out here fighting hard,” she said. “Because this man has allowed us to be able to go and just be able to thrive in our educational careers. It would just be so heartbreaking to know that he wouldn’t be able to attend both of our graduations scheduled for December.”

Nabintou Doumbia says her father also serves as a kind of community benefactor, offering cars and jobs to people in need. “People have been calling us and asking, ‘Hey, am I able to use one of your cars? Am I able to become one of your drivers?’ He’s just someone who is always willing to help people help themselves,” she said.

Banny Doumbia’s niece Saedy Sarr says Doumbia’s wife also faces possible deportation.

“They are fighting to keep this family together,” said Sarr, adding that Detroit’s small but tight-knit African community is under increasing strain from ICE activities.

“The only thing that they did not do right – if we can say so, I hate saying that – is that they overstayed their visa because they wanted to take the opportunity to give their children a better life,” Sarr said. “And 20-some years later, it’s being taken away from them.”

Doumbia’s family says he’s being held in the Calhoun County Jail without bond, and little information about the future of his case or why he was arrested last week.

But ICE Detroit spokesman Khaalid Walls says Doumbia is a “convicted aggravated felon and unlawfully present citizen of the Ivory Coast,” who was only released under supervision in 2004 because ICE couldn’t obtain the necessary travel documents from Ivory Coast to return him there.

Walls says ICE now has those documents, and Doumbia “will now remain in ICE custody pending removal from the U.S.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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