Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had former Webster student Francis Ladege dress out in civilian clothes and then board a chartered flight scheduled for late March 28. This flight would take him back to his home country of South Sudan.
Ladege arrived in South Sudan March 29. He was released into the custody of an aunt who lives in Juba March 30.
Christine Salamone has known Ladege for almost ten years. She soon became a mother figure for Ladege and his brother when the two came to St. Louis. She said Ladege’s uncle told her Ladege was in his aunt’s custody.
“He said he is hot and he slept well,” Salamone said. “He has enjoyed being shown around by his cousins, he is using the phones we sent him to take pictures.”
Salamone said she was called by Ladege on Tuesday. She said Ladege was applying for his South Sudanese nationality card this week and was enjoying his newfound freedom.
“He was so happy to go to the field and watch the kids play soccer,” Salamone said. “Just how powerful that is.”
Salamone learned of Ladege’s release into his aunt’s custody from Ladege’s uncle, who lives in Kentucky. Ladege and his brother lived with their uncle when the two first came to the United States. The uncle, who did not want to be named, learned about Ladege’s detainment in October 2015. Ladege’s uncle said it was unlikely for Ladege to be allowed back into the U.S. anytime soon.
“Typically, if a person is deported from the U.S. he or she may be barred for a number of years (5 or 10 ) or permanently from returning to the U.S,” Ladege’s uncle said. “In Francis’ case, if a judge succeeds in overturning his conviction, that may be another way he could return to the U.S. sooner. All his prospects are unknown at the moment.”
Ladege’s uncle said Ladege has never met the family he is currently staying with. Ladege was born at the height of the Sudanese civil war in the early 1990s in Parjok, which was a small city cut off from most of the war at the time.
Ladege’s uncle said Ladege has barely stayed in Juba and so he does not know how well Ladege is doing there. However, he said he is concerned for Ladege’s well-being.
“I don’t think Francis is safe in South Sudan,” Ladege’s uncle said. “South Sudan is going through brutal civil war at this moment.”
Former Webster student Ladege was arrested in 2014 for three counts of possession of marijuana. In 2015, Ladege was sentenced to five years probation, which he began to serve before ICE arrested and detained him for over two years. Ladege became a permanent United States resident in 2003, five years after he originally immigrated to the country.
Lawyer Joseph Lacome has license to practice immigration and other law in several states. He took on Ladege’s case pro bono in the middle of March and had filed a habeas corpus to demand a trial hearing for Ladege.
A Magistrate Judge of the District of Southern Texas had filed an Order for Service of Process for the habeas corpus on March 15. This gave the respondent a deadline of 60 days to respond to the habeas corpus.
Lacome said this was a good sign for Ladege because the habeas corpus was not denied outright. However, he said the habeas corpus would be pointless since Ladege has already been deported.
“Yeah it was a bit of a shock after being told he was going to be flown out for the past 18 months,” Lacome said. “He seems to be ok though.”
Lacome said he is curious as to what the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) will do now that Ladege is no longer in the United States. Lacome had Ladege file for Post-Conviction relief in the middle of March. Immigration lawyer Michael Sharma-Crawford had previously filed for Ladege’s criminal case to be reopened and remanded in February. The BIA has not yet taken action on either of these cases.
Ladege is now one of 227 South Sudanese nationals predicted to be deported back in January from the United States in 2018, according to Sudanese Radio Tamazuj.
Senior diplomat of the Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan in Washington, D.C. Gordon Buay Malak told Radio Tamazuj the 227 South Sudanese would be deported at any time “because they were charged with misconduct in the U.S.”
“The embassy has already given them travel documents so that they are deported to South Sudan … If they are rejected by the U.S., we will receive them as a government because it is our responsibility,” Malak said.
The number of South Sudanese deportations would be a drastic increase from the reported numbers for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. The U.S. deported just one South Sudanese national in 2016 while only two were deported in 2017, according to the Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report. Deportations to Sudan were slightly higher with three deportees in 2016 and 19 deportees in 2017. The total number of all U.S. deportees for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years were 240,255 and 226,119 respectively.