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Freed by ICE, Beloved Chef Welcomed Home

A local chef taken into custody last month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was welcomed back home Wednesday in Albany.

Albany Rescue Mission head chef Kinimo Ngoran was released after six weeks in ICE detention in Batavia. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul was among officials who welcomed Kinimo home.

"While my heart is overjoyed at your return, I am angry that there is a system that would have ripped you from your home here in Albany where you've lived for a decade, a person who is not out there committing crimes like the Trump Administration would think they do, a person who is here five days a week cooking meals for the homeless."

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple led a team of community leaders and lawyers who helped secure Ngoran's release. A tearful Ngoran, who came to the U.S. from the Ivory Coast, told the crowd he survived the ordeal of detention through prayer, a smile, and a positive attitude.  "I'm so grateful for all this. I'm thankful for Craig Apple, I'm thankful for all the lawyer. I'm thankful for all the Congress," said Kinimo.

"It's great to have Kinimo coming back home," said Capital City Rescue Mission Pastor Perry Jones, who sponsored Ngoran in 2011 so that he could live and work in the U.S.   "He is a very, very good worker. He's a very good person and you know he's like a son to me. I worked with him because immigration asked me to. I did that for six years and her gave me no trouble."

Dave Lucas:  "Was there ever any explanation as to why they decided to detain him?"

"Well, the only thing I ever heard was it was taking him too long and the process was too long. But he wasn't making it long. We were waiting on paperwork. Paperwork that had been in their offices for two years that should've been addressed a whole lot earlier, so I don't know, you know, I don't want to blame immigration for what I don't know what they did or didn't do but you know he did what he was supposed to do."

The mood was somber back on February 1st when Jones and Sheriff Apple gathered with others at the same space after Ngoran was taken.   "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."

Now reunited with her husband, Lisa Pepper-Ngoran says the couple have been approved for a visa petition, which has been pending more than two years. She believes what Kinomo endured should constitute a call to action for immigration reform.

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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