Protesters gather outside Philadelphia immigration office ahead of planned deportation of local father

Over a hundred people protested outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office in Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon for the release of Christian M’Bagoyi, a husband and father of two young daughters.

Christian, 43, was taken into ICE custody at the family’s South Philadelphia home on April 19. His wife Sarika M’Bgoyi said it was right after he dropped of their daughters at school.

"Our young daughters are repeatedly asking for their father day after day and I am horrified by what is happening to our family and dumbfounded as to what to tell them," said Sarika. "All I can keep telling them is mama will find a way to bring papa back home safe and sound."

Christian first came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago from West Africa seeking asylum, which was denied. A removal order has been in place since, but in the last two decades Christian has put down roots in this country working as a carpenter and buying a home with his wife in South Philadelphia.


This the fourth time Christian has been detained by ICE, but this is the furthest the process has ever escalated.

In the last two weeks, Christian was detained at the field office in Philadelphia then taken to the Moshannon Valley Processing Center, an airplane hangar in Louisiana now he awaits deportation at the Prairieland Detention Center in Texas.

His deportation flight is scheduled for Wednesday.

"I don’t think anything could’ve prepared us for the speed and aggression [ICE] did this to him and to my family," said Sarika. "We need him to be released back to us because we are falling apart."

Advocacy groups are racing and reaching the ears of Congressional leaders, the White House and their ultimate hope the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

"The measures they’re willing to take to rip families apart. We have congressional leadership working as hard as they can to stop the deportation, but the last we heard is he’s confirmed to fly out sometime tomorrow to West Africa," said Erika Guadalupe Nunez, the Director of Juntos. "We’re hoping we’ll be able to reopen his case and then from there file for a green card through his U.S. citizen wife."

"He’s married to a U.S. citizen, his children are U.S. citizens, he’s been here 20 years… This makes no sense to break up this family," said Andy Kang, Executive Director of PA Immigration & Citizenship Coalition. "There absolutely is a way to stop this. The president has the authority and Homeland Security has that authority."

A fellow parent whose children go to the same school say it's gut wrenching to see a family torn apart.

"The idea of some technical glitch, somebody in an office looking at a piece of paper and checking a box off, and that’s what could be separating a family; it scares me to death," said Charlie Flowe.

More than 10,000 signatures have been collected to keep Christian in the U.S. with his family.