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After 28 years in US, Detroit business owner faces deportation

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Family of Banny Doumbia, who faces deportation to Ivory Coast. Right to left: Aminaa Toure, Banny's granddaughter; Fanta Doumbia, Banny's daughter; Nabintou Doumbia, Banny's daughter; Assita Doumbia, Banny's daughter; Madou Doumbia, Banny's 10-year-old son; Mariame Doumbia, Banny's wife;  Banny Doumbia(Photo: Nabintou Doumbia)
For 28 years, Banny Doumbia has lived in the U.S. after immigrating from the Ivory Coast on a visa.
Settling in Detroit, he opened two small businesses, a taxi services and auto repair shop, and co-founded a mosque, Islamic Community of As-Salaam. Doumbia, 52, became known as a community leader in the city's growing west African community and is the father of four children, ages 10 to 23.
But according to U.S. immigration officials, he's undocumented and has several federal felony convictions for theft and bank fraud. They say he's been due for removal for years and plan to deport him soon. His case is the latest example of what immigrant advocates say is the growing numbers of deportations of west African immigrants in Detroit. Advocates say the increase in removals is dividing families and hurting Detroit communities.
"His family has been struggling without him," said Fatou-Seydi Sarr, with the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs, a Detroit group that helps African immigrants. "What is the point of removing him after almost 30 years in this country?"
On Aug. 3, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained Doumbia during a check-in and sent him to Monroe County and later Calhoun County jail, saying he will be deported. His detention prompted protests from immigrant advocates who say his sudden detention is another case of undocumented immigrants being targeted after years of being allowed to remain in the U.S.
On Wednesday, ICE took him to Detroit Metro Airport to be deported to the Ivory Coast, but he became non-compliant before boarding and so his removal was postponed, said a government official. Doumbia is currently in ICE custody pending deportation.
Several protesters gathered Wednesday at the airport, arguing with United Arlines officials at the ticket counter to halt his deportation. Some sat down inside the airport and chanted "Down with deportation" and "Free Doumbia," according to video broadcasts posted on social media by immigrant advocates. The protesters also criticized United Airlines for facilitating the deportation of Doumbia. 
A spokesperson for United, Erin Benson, did not comment on the concerns of the protesters, referring any questions to federal authorities. 
ICE maintains that Doumbia is living illegally in the U.S. and also has criminal convictions. 
Detained after years of monitoring 
In a statement, the spokesman for the Detroit office of ICE, Khaalid Walls, said: "On Aug. 3, Banny Doumbia was arrested by ICE as a convicted aggravated felon and unlawfully present citizen of the Ivory Coast. He is currently subject to an administrative removal order."
ICE says it would have deported him earlier, but it couldn't get proper documents from Ivory Coast. 
"ICE released him on an order of supervision in January 2004 because the agency was unable to obtain a travel document from his home country to effect his removal," said the ICE statement.
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ICE said that "Doumbia has multiple federal felony convictions for theft and bank fraud. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal from the U.S."
Deborah Alemu, a lead organizer with UndocuBlack Network, which helps undocumented black immigrants, said Doumbia "served four years for his conviction and then an additional 6 months in immigration detention followed by years of check ins with ICE."
One of Doumbia's daughters, Nabintou Doumbia, said that her father was "contributing to the community ... these are pillars of the community ... pillars of their family."
She said his children "are completely financially dependent on him because we're all full-time students."
Community protests deportation 
Doumbia's case has drawn the support of Michigan United, a liberal advocacy group, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, UndocuBlack Network, and Rashida Tlaib, an attorney who is the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House district in Detroit formerly held by John Conyers. Tlaib attended the protest at the airport Wednesday.
"I'm really disappointed in United Airlines is benefiting from the separation of families," Tlaib said. "He was forcibly taken through security through the airport and was not mentally prepared to leave his family. Corporations like United need to stand with all of us."
Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said "he's someone who deserves to the stay in the U.S. ... He's a well respected community leader and well respected family man."
Alemu, with UndocuBlack Network, said that Doumbia is being targeted for deportation under a 1996 law that expanded the definition of what crimes make an immigrant eligible for deportation.
Alemu said that their group "is concerned that this punitive detention for an Ivorian community leader who is neither a flight risk or a security threat gives ICE an unmitigated power to detain and deport leaders of the Ivorian community in Michigan."
Contact Niraj Warikoo:nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo
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