ABC11 first told you about Gilles Bikindou when he was arrested by ICE agents last month.
The 58-year-old Sunday school student came to this county legally, but his visa sponsorship was pulled by the Congolese government several years ago. He has lived in the country illegally since, while maintaining ICE orders of supervision, in hopes of gaining legal status.
Now three Greenwood ministers are rallying for him at the detention center in Georgia where Bikindou has been placed.
The church said Bikindou has applied for humanitarian parole with the support of republican state senator, Tom Tillis. His attorney is also working on a new petition for asylum, should he be deported.
"We had to tell him ourselves that he is going to be deported this Friday," said Lauren Efird, senior pastor at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church. "He's very scared and worried. We prayed with him."
"If our country should stand for anybody it should stand for someone like Gilles," she added.
Baptist churches across North Carolina have joined in support of Bikindou, as the church said he is also fighting a life-threatening medical condition, needing medication only available in the US and Canada.
"Mr. Bikindou has been a contributing member of the society," said Nancy Petty, pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. "He has no criminal background, he has been in this country for a long time, made relationships. He has followed every rule that ice has sent down to him."
"It just doesn't make any sense to the average citizen, I think, when the message is we want to deport those who are not contributing to our society who are violent criminals, but that's not who is getting rounded up," she added.
ICE tells ABC11 in a statement:
"Gilles Armand Marc Bikindou, 58, a citizen and national of the Republic of Congo illegally in the U.S., was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Jan. 9 and is currently in ICE custody. Mr. Bikindou has been afforded full legal process in his case and was taken into custody based on a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge. ICE considers all humanitarian factors when making custody determinations and in the removal process."
ICE also provided Eyewitness News with the following background:
"Mr. Bikindou entered the U.S. July 12, 2004, on a nonimmigrant visa. On April 10, 2006, he was granted voluntary departure and ordered to depart by May 25, 2006, but failed to depart. On Jan. 26, 2010, after a lengthy court process, an immigration judge issued him a final order of removal.
On June 9, 2010, ERO officers arrested Mr. Bikindou in Raleigh, North Carolina, pursuant to his final order of removal. He was released from custody on an order of supervision June 28, 2010, which remained in effect until his most recent arrest Jan. 9.
ICE takes very seriously the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care and our detention centers are staffed with medical and mental health care providers who monitor, diagnose and treat residents at the facility. ICE also uses outside, private medical/mental health care service providers as needed. All ICE detainees are supported by the ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC). ICE considers all humanitarian factors when making custody determinations and during the removal process.
U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes seriously its obligation to enforce the nation's immigration laws, and the enforcement actions ICE employs are intended to accomplish this fairly and efficiently. ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security. However, as acting ICE Director Thomas Homan made clear, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of aliens not lawfully present in the Unites States from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of U.S. immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and removal from the United States, if found removable by final order."