SAN DIEGO -- A family from the Democratic Republic of Congo is begging immigration officials to stop the deportation process for their father, who they say faces death if he returns to his home country.
The family of Constantin Bakala, accompanied by faith leaders, held a rally outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office downtown Thursday. The family is urging officials not to deport Bakala because they fear for his safety.
The family told FOX 5 they fled their home country because of political persecution. In 2017, the family found themselves at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where they were separated. Bakala was sent to a immigration detention center in Georgia. The rest of his family was released in the San Diego area.
"Please don't deport my Dad," Constantin's 17-year-old daughter, Marie, pleaded at the rally Wednesday.
According to faith leaders accompanying the family, Bakala represented himself in court because of a lack of money and resources. He was denied asylum by a judge.
Colin Mathewson is a pastor at St. Luke's Episcopal church in North Park, where the family worships. He said the church found an attorney for Bakala and is hoping to reopen his case.
"We fear that if Constantin is deported, he will be murdered," Mathewson said. "So this is a matter of life or death for us."
On Friday, an ICE spokesperson responded to FOX 5's request for comment, saying Bakala received "extensive due process" and that his requests were unsuccessful after his claims were considered multiple times. They also shared the following statement:
“Congolese national Constantin Bakala was initially encountered Nov. 5, 2017, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection while seeking to enter the U.S. in San Ysidro, Calif. He was then transferred into ICE custody Nov. 7. Mr. Bakala has received all appropriate legal process under federal law, to include multiple appeals, and he has no lawful basis to remain in the U.S.
Mr. Bakala was ordered removed from the U.S. by a federal immigration judge in April 2018, and two appeals of that order were subsequently denied by the courts in October 2018 and again in February 2019. He is presently in ICE custody while awaiting removal to his country of citizenship in accordance with federal law and the order of the courts.”