Nigerian picked up in Rogers Park to face deportation
By ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 5, 2012 9:48AM
Eugene Peba, a Nigerian living in Chicago who has been hoping to win asylum or recognition of his 2-year-old marriage to Nicole so he can stay.
Updated: June 6, 2012 8:08AM
Eugene Peba, 28, of Nigeria, was picked up in the parking lot of the Rogers Park nursing home where he works as a certified nursing assistant Thursday morning and taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to Kenosha, Wis., to await deportation, his wife said.
Peba and his wife, Nicole Peba, were in the process of appealing his deportation, and did not think he was in danger of being deported, given that President Barack Obama has said deportation should be used from now on only for undocumented immigrants picked up for criminal offenses.
U.S. immigration spokesman could not be reached for comment.
“We had not completed the process of appeal before he was picked up,” said Peba’s attorney, Akin Ogunlola. “There is no way he qualifies as a fugitive. He never ran away. He has never been convicted of any crime. He does not pose any threat to national security.”
Peba spent years trying to convince immigration authorities here that he feared for his safety if he was deported to Nigeria. A member of the persecuted Ogoni tribe, Peba testified he demonstrated against the Royal Dutch Shell company’s environmental treatment of his family’s region and was beaten by government troops since the age of 9, according to accounts of his struggle by Northwestern University journalism students and WBEZ.
A doctor testified that Peba’s scars, a gunshot wound and his mis-shapen elbow are consistent with torture. His testimony was not enough to sway the immigration judge so he has since been trying to stay based on his two-year-old marriage to Nicole.
Immigration authorities have attacked the marriage as one of convenience and noted he previously married another American since he arrived here in 2005. Nicole Peba, 33, born and raised in America, has left her interrogations by immigration officials crying over the very personal questions, she said.
“They didn’t have any reason to pick him up,” Nicole Peba said Friday. When she heard from her husband Thursday morning, he told her they had been following him and had picked him up in the parking lot of the Atrium nursing home where he works — he had not been stopped for a traffic offense or any other crime, he told her.
She hopes to visit him in Kenosha on Sunday — the first day he will be allowed visitors, if he is not transferred before then, he told her.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), whose lobbying helped persuade Obama to issue the memo telling immigration officials to ease up on deportations, was disappointed to hear of Peba’s case.
“Picking this man up has not made anybody any safer,” Gutierrez said. “He doesn’t present a danger. It’s a clear case. They take people who don’t present any danger or threat. The spirit of the discretionary memo isn’t being followed.”
Gutierrez has scheduled a meeting Sunday morning of an advisory counsel to focus on cases in which the memo is not being followed, he said.