The family of Constantin Bakala gathered in downtown San Diego on Thursday to submit a petition with the federal government, with nearly 500 signatures, asking for their father not to be deported.
As soon as Friday the father of seven from the Democratic Republic of Congo may be returned to a country where he fears he’ll be killed. The family fled home in 2017 after they were tortured and poisoned because of Bakala’s calls for democracy, according to the family.
After a harrowing journey through some of Latin America’s most dangerous countries, including a shipwreck where they lost important documents for their asylum case, the family was separated upon arrival in the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Bakala was put in detention while his wife and kids were released on parole. His asylum petition was rejected, his family says, because he couldn’t get an attorney from inside detention until months into his case.
His children made flyers in support of their father at the downtown gathering, saying things like “I love you dad,” and “Justice for Constantin.” His 15-year-old daughter Marie Louise spoke and broke into tears: “I miss my dad a lot. Please don’t deport my dad. Give him a chance.”
Bakala has been moved from detention center to detention center: from Georgia to Alabama to Louisiana to Virginia. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
“Please give me the strength,” his wife Annie Bwetu Kapongo told reporters at downtown gathering, adding that she didn’t know how she was going to be able to provide for seven children in a foreign country without the help of her husband.