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Politicians, NY Sheriff Back City Mission Cook Held By ICE

Elected officials, political activists, faith leaders and a local sheriff are rallying behind a soup kitchen chef being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Elected officials, political activists, faith leaders and a local sheriff are rallying behind a soup kitchen chef being held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

A judge in Rochester issued a restraining order Friday that will at least temporarily block any effort to deport a Capital City Rescue Mission chef taken into custody last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Capital City Rescue Mission Pastor Perry Jones sponsored Kinimo Ngoran in 2011, hiring him to work at the mission so that immigration officials would grant Ngoran a stay of removal, giving him employment status.

The stay was in place until last week.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple spoke Friday:   "He's a husband. He's a friend to many. He's a beloved chef right here in this building who does God's work and cooks roughly 800 meals a day for the needy in our great county. Kinimo was doing everything he was asked to do. He was following all the stipulations imposed on him by ICE. He was checking in. He was mentored by our great pastor Perry Jones. He was working full-time. He was paying taxes. And again, he was checking in, doing everything he was supposed to do. But when he checked in the last time, he was detained. He was shipped to my facility, where five hours later he was taken away and shipped five hours away to Buffalo."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan told the gathering she was trying to control her “Irish temper.”    "We can do all that we can to make Albany a Sanctuary City. And this is an example of why it's important. People who are here, doing the right thing for the right reason should feel safe here. Kimino, who has given his life and has made it his vocation to serve people like he formerly was, who are homeless, went to an appointment and he didn't come back."

A seven-lawyer strong pro bono team is working to secure Ngoran's release. Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat like Sheehan, is working on it as well.   "Rather than focusing on criminals and terrorists we have been ripping apart families and putting children in cages at our borders. That is unjust. It's unfair. and speaks to the urgency of reform. Now with this situation, i think it really defies our American values and all for which we stand."

Sheehan says most of us are descendants of people who immigrated to the U.S. in search of better lives.   "People in Washington are talking about a wall instead of talking about human beings. So I use this as a platform for Kimino, but also to call on our federal government: Get this right, you represent us. Do your job."

Ngoran's wife, a U.S. citizen, says the couple have been approved for a visa petition, which has been pending more than two years. Lisa Pepper-Ngoran:   "Kinimo, he had fought in a civil war in the Ivory Coast. And when the civil war started again in the early 2000s, that is when he left. So that is why he came to the country and that is how he became homeless. So he's not homeless. He has a large family there. He hopes. We do not know if they're alive or not, he has not been in contact with any family there. But was are hopeful he has six older sisters and his mother was still alive when he came here."

Ngoran's attorneys noted restrictions make it difficult for them to communicate with him during his detention, but vow to fight for him to be allowed to remain in Albany.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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