Kinimo Ngoran released from ICE detention after six-week saga


**Original article from Times Union, by Mallory Moench. View the original article here.

The Capital City Rescue Mission chef was released from immigration detention near Buffalo on Tuesday night after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) submitted a court filing with a federal court in Rochester at noon, Ngoran's lawyers said.

ICE's court filing Tuesday also issued Ngoran a temporary stay of removal, stopping his deportation, until a decision is made on Ngoran's application to get a green card through his American citizen wife, Lisa Pepper-Ngoran. The process could take years.

“I have goose bumps. This is a deeply happy moment. I know it is far from over. But Kinimo has taught me that we only have today. Nothing else is promised. So today I am very, very grateful.”

"It's tremendous. It means the most to Kinimo and Lisa. It means the Capital District will do whatever it can to reunite families," Rogerson said. Ngoran's sister-in-law Tamara Pepper confirmed he was released Tuesday night and told the Times Union she was overwhelmed with joy at the news.

"I have goose bumps. This is a deeply happy moment. I know it is far from over. But Kinimo has taught me that we only have today. Nothing else is promised. So today I am very, very grateful," Pepper said.

She visited Ngoran last weekend in Batavia Federal Detention Facility near Buffalo and said she convinced him to get a sweatshirt Monday at the commissary. She said he was now going to leave it with a friend he made in detention.

Ngoran's wife traveled to Batavia Tuesday night and posted a photo of the pair outside the detention facility on the "Save Kinimo Ngoran" Facebook page. He will be brought back to the Capital Region and is scheduled to appear Wednesday during a 1 p.m. news conference at the City Mission in Albany. He will be monitored with an ankle bracelet after his release.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple first brought light to Ngoran's situation when he was arrested, detained and faced deportation after a routine ICE check-in six weeks ago.

"It was unjust. He was taken away from his wife for six weeks, that still blows me away, at the end of this, he's coming home and I couldn't be happier," Apple told the Times Union Tuesday. "I'm a small part of a big group that fought for him."

Ngoran entered the country illegally more than a decade ago, saying he was fleeing violence and religious persecution in the Ivory Coast. Since then, he's been trying to get legal status.

ICE spokesman Khalid Walls said Ngoran was ordered removed from the U.S. by a federal immigration judge in 2004. Courts denied his subsequent appeals.

While Ngoran's attorney at the time worked on his appeal, the Department of Homeland Security issued him a temporary stay of deportation, forbidding his immediate removal. Ngoran had been regularly reporting to ICE under an order of supervision issued in 2012 because the agency was previously unable to obtain a travel document from his home country, Walls said.

City Mission Executive Director Perry Jones said Ngoran came to the mission in 2011 homeless and seeking shelter, but the beloved chef became a volunteer and then an employee in the kitchen. Jones mentored and accompanied Ngoran to his regular ICE visits, but on Jan. 23, Jones returned to the mission following one of those visits without Ngoran.

Ngoran got married two years ago and applied for a petition to get a green card through marriage. It was approved a week after he was detained.

Ngoran has been represented by a vast legal team including six attorneys and eight law students from Albany Law School, University at Buffalo School of Law, local attorney Fred Korkosz and New York City-based NSC Community Legal Defense, a nonprofit that defends detained immigrants facing deportation. His community organized a letter-writing campaign to local elected officials, set up a GoFundMe fundraising effort and created a petition urging concerned citizens to call the ICE office in Latham and demand Ngoran's freedom.

Ngoran's family, legal counsel and elected officials rallied at the Capital City Rescue Mission last month. "I'm overjoyed to hear he has been released from custody and will be returning home soon," said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

Last Monday, Rochester U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa heard the petition challenging Ngoran's detention and gave ICE a week to decide whether to grant his stay of removal and keep him in detention.

ICE decided to let him go home.