Protesters gather at Metro Airport as Mich. father faces deportation

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Romulus — Protesters sat in the entrance of Detroit Metro Airport on Wednesday night, chanting: "Up, up with liberation, down, down with deportation," as a father of four awaited deportation. 

Banny Doumbia and his family.

More than 50 people sat in the airport's North Terminal to protest Banny Doumbia, an Ivory Coast native who has been undocumented for more than 30 years in Detroit, a family friend said. He has four children, two businesses and is a mechanic. 

Doumbia was taken off a United Airlines plane "but that doesn't mean he won't be on another," said friend Seydi Sarr.

“We think the airline felt pressure because we were there,” she said. “We know also by bystanders that he was not very compliant when boarding the plane. They probably thought taking him off was best for safety reasons. We don’t have the full story of what happened." 

United Airlines referred questions about Doumbia to federal authorities..

Protesters said they demonstrated against Doumbia's attempted deportation and United Airlines for "complying with the separation of families."

"He was forcibly taken through security through the airport and was not mentally prepared to leave his family," said Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic nominee for the 13th Congressional District in Detroit who attended the protest. "Corporations like United need to stand with all of us and advocate that the U.S. Congress and this administration to fix our broken immigration system."

Airport police were called to the scene and protesters told officers that he was being forced onto a plane to head back to the Ivory Coast without proper deportation documentation.

Sarr, executive director of African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs in the United States, said Doumbia had been complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for the last 14 years and was detained during a normal immigration check-in toward the end of August.

He was taken to Monroe County Jail and transferred to Calhoun County Jail. 

"They changed his visitation to web-based only and they didn't give us a reason why," said Sarr. "He's in pain and his family is in shock."

Sarr said Doumbia also was forced to bring the passports of his children, which are being held by ICE. 

"His oldest daughter is about to graduate from social work; another daughter about to graduate college and another (is) graduating high school," said Sarr. "His son is 10 years old and they are withholding passports. He's not a flight risk. He's never missed an (ICE) appointment."

ICE officials arrested Doumbia on Aug. 3 as a convicted aggravated felon an unlawfully present citizen of the Ivory Coast, said spokesman Khaalid Walls. 

"He is currently subject to an administrative removal order," Walls said Thursday. "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."

Walls said Doumbia has multiple federal felony convictions for theft and bank fraud.

"He will remain in ICE custody pending removal from the U.S.," Walls said. 

Doumbia's family notified United Airlines employees that he was being sent against his will. In other videos posted under #FreePapaDoumbia, United Airlines officials told family members it's not their duty to make sure he's not being deported against his will.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_