deporting Wisconsin’s best and brightest


I’m not sure, considering the recent increases in the rate of enforcement and deportation, that this story should surprise me right now, but …

“When Tope Awe’s parents told her she needed to go to the Milwaukee office of Immigration Customs and Enforcement last month, she and her family expected a review of her status, and thought she might get a chance to petition for a student visa.

The 22-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison pharmacy student had been brought to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 3. She had grown up and gone to school in Milwaukee and was now one year from college graduation.

Dressed in a suit, she came in from Madison and met her parents, their pastor and her brother, Benga Awe, 24, at the immigration office. An officer asked to see Tope and Benga alone.

“He asked us for our background information, where we were born, driver’s license, current residence, all that stuff,” Tope Awe said.

Then the officer brought plastic bags into the interrogation room.

“He said, ‘I’m going to need all your stuff. You’re being deported,’ ” Tope Awe said.

She couldn’t breathe. Deported. To Nigeria, a country she does not remember. A country whose language she does not speak.”

Read the entire article: Caught in no man’s land – by Erica Perez – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Unsurprisingly, students on the UW campus held a peaceful protest several weeks ago urging for relief for Tope Awe in particular. What the activists may not understand is that there are tens of thousands of students in an equally precarious situation — some may still live under the radar, but they are here.

Raised in the U.S. since their infant or toddler years, they may not speak Spanish or Polish or Swahili, but at the same time they have no legal right to remain in the United States, also the only home they know.

Both Benga and Tope will face 10-year bars for their unlawful presence and deportation from the U.S. once they leave. Benga, who is married to a U.S. citizen, has a chance to file waivers and reunite with his wife and young child in the U.S. Tope, a pharmacy student with excellent grades and a history of achievement, does not appear to have a U.S. citizen spouse, fiance, (and certainly not a parent), and therefore will be stuck.

If you read the entire story, you will see that the reason the Awe family has remained in the U.S. so long, after their asylum was denied and appeals failed, is that the father, Samuel Awe, has chronic kidney disease that has required several transfusions.

“In a February letter to ICE’s Chicago field office director, Dr. Paul G. Jenkins, a clinical professor at the UW Medical School and Samuel Awe’s doctor since the 1980s, wrote that he would not survive another move to Nigeria.

“Mr. Awe is a kidney transplant recipient and has been studying, living and working in this country for most of the past thirty years. . . . To force Mr. Awe to return to his native Nigeria would, I think, impose a death sentence,” Jenkins wrote.

(ICE spokesperson) Montenegro said health issues do not exempt people from obeying a judge’s order to leave the country.”


2 Responses to deporting Wisconsin’s best and brightest

  1. Bill Leslie says:

    She sounds very smart and motivated. I’m sure she’ll do well in Nigeria and be an asset to the country.

  2. laurafern says:

    Hmm… true, but first she’ll have to learn Swahili, including highly technical language involved in doing pharmacy, that is, assuming her pharmacy degree is worth anything in Nigeria.

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