32BJ celebrates halt of union member’s deportation

Stephon Johnson | 2/28/2019, 10:35 a.m.

The deportation of a porter, and union member, is delayed for now. But that itself is a victory for 32BJ SEIU.

U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Officers detained Baba Sillah, 48, Jan. 31 during a routine check-in at federal immigration offices in lower Manhattan. Authorities then took Sillah to an immigration detention center at the Hudson County Correctional facilities in New Jersey.

“The case of our brother Baba Sillah shows just how irrevocably broken our immigration system is, and how current inhumane practices make it difficult even for families with strong support from their communities to fulfill the simple aspiration to stay together, raise their families and contribute to their communities,” said John Santos, vice president of 32BJ SEIU and head of the union’s Residential Division. “Sillah did everything he was supposed to, like hundreds of thousands of immigrants do every day, and he was still unceremoniously and without warning about to be sent away from his U.S. citizen family that depends on him completely, not knowing if he would ever be able to return to them. These violent family separations must end.”

Sillah has lived in the United States since 1993 and has worked as a porter on the Upper East Side since 2006. Sillah, a member of 32BJ SEIU since 2006, has a pending application for a green card and is married to U.S. citizen Mamou Drame Sillah. He has five children who were all born here with one of them currently living in Senegal.

Last week, Sillah’s family, 32BJ members, the imam at his mosque, elected officials and immigrant community members rallied outside of 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan to call for his release. On Monday, authorities took Sillah from his cell at Hudson with plans to deport him that night. He was only able to reach his wife in the afternoon to alert her of his impending deportation.

Authorities granted Sillah a stay after lawyers at the NSC Community Legal Defense got involved. However, Sillah is currently back in detention as Hudson ICE looks at his case.

“It is absolutely outrageous that Baba Sillah—dedicated father, husband and 32BJ member—is being detained and could be deported. I join 32BJ SEIU and community leaders in demanding Sillah’s release,” stated Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “The Trump administration’s inhumanity knows no bounds. I will do all I can to oppose these horrific policies that tear families apart and to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.”

“Here we go again, dealing with the Trump administration and his immigration policies,” added Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “We all know that New York does not exist without immigrants, generation after generation, and this is the kind of family we want to keep in our city. That’s why we are supporting Baba Sillah and his family and ask that he be allowed to return home.”

At last week’s rally, the crowd chanted “Bring Baba Home.” It was a wish that Imam Iamin Gassama provided specifics for. “Baba is one of us, he is a good man, he is always praying, and he is considerate and family-oriented,” said Gassama. “We pray for his release so he can rejoin his family.”