Members of the Greenwood Forest Baptist Church said Gilles Bikindou has been living in the United States for more than a decade, but is now in ICE custody and will soon be deported to the Republic of Congo.
Pastor Lauren Efird believes Bikindou is facing a grave situation, and church members fear he will die if deported and worry his life may be in danger while he remains in ICE custody.
“Gilles Bikindou is a member of our church, he is our brother in Christ. He has been a productive and law-abiding member of our community for over a decade,” Efird said. “He has a life-threatening medical condition, and he isn’t getting the treatment that he needs. We’re concerned that he will die if deported, but we’re also concerned that he won’t survive in ICE custody.”
Efrid did not elaborate on Bikindou’s medical condition.
In a statement, ICE said, "Mr. Bikindou has been afforded full legal process in his case and was taken into custody based on a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge. ICE considers all humanitarian factors when making custody determinations and in the removal process.”
Bikindou's attorney, Hans Christian Linnartz, said his client came to the U.S. legally, on a visa, which was withdrawn when he refused instructions from the Republic of Congo government to falsely testify in a trial that would have vindicated the government from a massacre. He then sought political asylum, which was denied.
"Gilles is very genuinely fearful of going back there," Linanrtz said.
Bikindou's deportation was deferred in the past. He was first ordered removed from the United States in 2010, but was living under an order of supervision since June 28, 2010, until his most recent arrest Jan. 9.
Greenwood Forest's Rev. Wesley Spears-Newsome said he went with Bikindou to an ICE hearing that day, but returned alone after Bikindou was taken into custody.
The next day, Bikindou called Efird. Efird said ICE officials failed to communicate to Bikindou that he would be removed from the country.
"I had to tell him myself that his stay had been denied and that he was going to be deported. No one had communicated this to him," Efird said.
Bikindou is now on the way to a holding facility in Georgia and will then be deported.
"They have the authority to do this. Whether it's right, on the side of God, is a whole different matter," Linnartz said. "As a follower of Jesus, I'm always optimistic about everything, but as a lawyer, I have no idea and I'm just praying that Gilles can stay in the United States."
The church is doing everything in their power to stop the deportation.
“Jesus tells us that we show our love for him by loving our neighbors. We won’t stand by and let our brother be treated this way,” Efird said.
Efird said Bikindou has no criminal record and she is unsure what prompted the deportation order.
Efird said the church has been in contact with Rep. David Price about Bikindou's case.
"The next step in the process would require some intervention from two sources. One of them is the United States government and that would be the executive [branch]. The judiciary has no role in this any further," Linnartz said.
WRAL News contacted ICE officials for additional details, but has not received a response.
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