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Man who needs dialysis to survive given sanctuary to stay in U.S.

Tracy Samilton

A man originally from Guinea has been given sanctuary by Quakers in Ann Arbor, after an immigration judge ordered him deported.

Mohamed Soumah has lived in the U.S. for 15 years.  In 2011, he was ordered deported after overstaying his visa, but Immigration and Customs officials say they weren't able to deport him because they couldn't  obtain a travel document from Guinea.

"In an exercise of discretion, ICE had previously allowed Mr. Soumah to remain free while arrangements were being made for his departure from the U.S.  Mr. Soumah failed to report as instructed for his removal and is now considered a fugitive alien," a statement from ICE reads.

Soumah, who has polycystic kidney disease, requires dialysis three times a week.  He was scheduled to appear at Detroit Metro Airport for deportation to Guinea in October.  But he became ill the day before, and had to be hospitalized.  A social worker at the University of Michigan connected him with Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary.  Subsequently, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting House offered him sanctuary, which he accepted.

Soumah says he has two U.S. born children, one nine, one ten.  He had been working at the University of Michigan until his placement in sanctuary.

"Never commit any crime," a weeping Soumah said at a press conference announcing the move.  "Paying taxes, and now I'm gonna be deported, and if I be deported, I will die."

Officials with Washtenaw Congregational Sanctury say there is no reliable access to dialysis in Guinea, and it has to be paid for out of pocket.  Soumah would be penniless and unable to afford the treatments, even if he could locate a facility. 

Soumah's condition is inherited; he says his mother died in Guinea after a botched dialysis treatment, the first she could obtain after going into kidney failure.

ICE says its agents typically do not apprehend fugitive aliens at "sensitive locations," including schools, churches, and medical facilities.  Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary is not releasing any details about how Soumah will receive his dialysis treatments, in order to protect him from being picked up by ICE.

WCS is a group of 13 faith communities that have joined together to oppose the Trump administration's immigration policies and to provide sanctuary to those in need of protection from deportation.  Members include the Church of the Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, the Wesley Foundation, Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Temple Beth Emeth, Beth Israel Congregation, St. Clare's Episcopal Church, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Chelsea, and First Congregational United Church of Christ in Ypsilanti.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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