The Board of Immigration Appeals denied former Webster University student Francis Ladege’s appeal to reopen his case on May 18, banning Ladege from ever returning to the U.S. Ladege became a citizen of South Sudan, his native country, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported him March 28.
The South Sudanese government gave Ladege his father’s last name, Sisto, after granting him citizenship. Sisto’s new home of Juba, South Sudan, faces a crisis state of food insecurity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Juba’s crisis classification means residents have an accelerating depletion of livelihood assets that will lead to food consumption gaps.
Christine Salamone, Sisto’s ‘American mom,’ raises money to send Sisto through recycled material she collects or that others give to her. Salamone talks to Sisto through his neighbor who has access to the Internet. Sisto sent Salamone pictures through Facebook to show her his new life in South Sudan.
“He sent me this picture and I just bawled,” Salamone said. “I’m like ‘Oh my God, look at how thin he is.’”
Salamone said she raised more than $1,500 for Sisto. She said she sends money to him through Dahabshiil, Inc., a company that allows users to send money to people in other countries such as South Sudan.
Sisto started his first job in South Sudan on Nov. 21 at a hotel as a server. Salamone said he gets to eat for free at the hotel and avoids starvation for now.
Sisto lived in the U.S. for around 25 years before ICE deported him.
The St. Louis County Police Department arrested Sisto in September of 2014 for three incidents involving the possession of marijuana earlier that year.
Sisto pleaded guilty to the charges in 2015 and began a five-year probation sentence. ICE arrested Sisto for another charge of possession of marijuana in October of 2015. Sisto pleaded guilty to those charges as well.
Richard Hereford represented Sisto as his attorney in 2015 after Sisto was first charged with possession of marijuana. Hereford said Sisto knew what would happen if he repeated the offense.
“He knew the implications,” Hereford said. “He’s not stupid. He was just a criminal.”
ICE sent Sisto to a detainment facility in Montgomery County, Mo. after his arrest in 2015. Sisto stayed in ICE detainment until he was deported to South Sudan.
Immigration lawyer Joseph LaCome took on Sisto’s case pro bono weeks before ICE deported Sisto. LaCome filed a habeas corpus petition in an attempt to get Sisto a new trial. The habeas corpus motion could no longer be useful after Sisto arrived in South Sudan.
LaCome said he did not hear from Sisto or his family after ICE deported him.
Salamone said she hopes to someday help Sisto move from South Sudan to a safer country so his brother, Charles Ladege, can visit him. Charles Ladege did not respond to a request for comment.