The congregation of a North Carolina Baptist scheduled for deportation this Friday asked “everyone of good conscience” to demand his release on humanitarian grounds in a press release Feb. 19.
Members of Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, N.C., said church member Gilles Bikindou “should be released to his community of faith where he has been a law-abiding resident and productive member of society” since coming to America legally from the Republic of Congo in 2004.
“Mr. Bikindou is essential to our community and a blessing to the United States of America,” the statement said. “His community of faith is asking everyone of good conscience to demand his release back to us.”
Church members say they believe Bikindou will die if he is deported. He is being treated for an unspecified but life-threatening medical condition, they say, with medicines that are not available in the Republic of Congo.
They also fear for his safety. Before coming to the United States, Bikindou witnessed atrocities in his homeland, they say, and the Republic of Congo withdrew funding for his education when he refused to lie about it under oath.
At the time, the U.S. government declined to grant political asylum to Bikindou, but he did receive an order of supervision allowing him to live, work and drive legally. His status was renewed routinely over the years, until a policy change by the Trump administration.
Bikindou traveled to Charlotte, N.C., in January for what he thought was a routine check-in, but he wound up being detained and shipped to a privately owned prison in Georgia. Church members say he received inadequate medical care at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., was hospitalized several times and recently relocated to the Atlanta City Detention Center as an “operational necessity.”
Greenwood Forest Pastor Lauren Efird said staff members at the Raleigh office of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told church leaders the senator has communicated directly with the ICE officer who turned down Bikindou’s stay of removal Jan. 9, asking him to reconsider on humanitarian grounds.
Bikindou’s attorney has filed for humanitarian parole — a sparingly used policy allowing someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the U.S. temporarily due to a compelling emergency — so he can receive proper medical care.
The press release said immigration officials have acknowledged neither request and appear intent on deporting Bikindou on Friday, Feb. 23.
“Mr. Bikindou’s representation and allies stand ready to make a case for political asylum but need to be given the chance,” the congregation said. “We are requesting that ICE grant Mr. Bikindou humanitarian parole because of his medical conditions and that they allow Mr. Bikindou’s asylum case to be re-opened in light of new evidence submitted to the court.”
Greenwood Forest Baptist Church is affiliated with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Alliance of Baptists.