Community Victory! Mark Gomes freed from ICE detention, reunited with family

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At 10:30am on Friday, February 3rd, I got a call from a colleague with news that Mark Gomes, a Bangladeshi man who was detained in Georgia, had been released from ICE custody and was on his way home to his family in North Carolina. 

Just a week earlier, I got a call from Mark's wife, Sworna, who was devastated at the possibility of being permanently separated from her husband, leaving her and their daughter here in the U.S. Their daughter, who has epilepsy, had been severely affected by her father's absence, both physically and emotionally. 

On December 13th at 5:30am, just as Mark was getting ready for work, ICE agents banged on his door and arrested him on old immigration charges. ICE took him to North Georgia Detention Center, where he spent the holidays away from his family and community. 

Mark Gomes and his wife fled Bangladesh in 1991 due to fear of persecution as a religious minority. They applied for asylum but the cases were denied despite what his wife says was a very strong case, "It lacked physical evidence". They appealed the case but were ultimately ordered removed in 2005. For the past four years they had been complying with ICE and reporting with the local ICE office under an order of supervision. 

We called up NNIRR allies from SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) in D.C., who advocated on Mark's behalf directly with DHS officials. We also contacted friends at Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who immediately got in touch with Mark's family and offered the critical support that was needed to get a petition up on change.org, which generated nearly 3,000 signatures in just 3 days! 

Just as we were preparing the final edits on a press release to go out nationally and bring attention to Mark's case, ICE released Mark from his jail cell, and put him on a bus back to Raleigh, North Carolina where his family and community were anxiously waiting for his return.

It's not quite clear what made ICE take action and heed the community's demands to release Mark, but one thing is clear: when our communities are organized, we can stop a deportation and get our loved ones released from detention. 

As one community advocate said, "we should not have to advocate case by case to stop deportations but sadly we do." Time and time again, communities around the country have demanded an end to unjust detention and deportations. Yet Congress continues to fund a failed detention and deportation-centered strategy grossly referred to as "immigration enforcement."

Mark's story is like hundreds, thousands of community members around the country, who live with the constant threat of being torn apart from their families, communities and loved ones. While we recognize our limited capacity to advocate on a case-by-case basis for every individual facing deportation, we will continue to advocate on behalf of our communities for real opportunities for legalization and meaningful changes to US immigration laws, policies, and practices. 

Raising our voices and telling our stories is part of our struggle for justice and reclaiming, affirming our human dignity. 

Dream, Rise, Organize for justice & human rights!