On the morning of April 20, 2009, Sabrina Krauss was leaving her Santa Rosa home for work when she heard the fuzzy feedback of a police radio. She turned to find a female officer standing on the sidewalk looking at her house. Krauss saw the “ICE” emblem on the officer’s shirt. Her husband, Okili Nguebari, who’d been at the cafe across the street, saw the commotion and came home. It was then that four more officers emerged from unmarked cars parked along the block. They rushed to restrain him, even though he didn’t make any attempt to run.
Nguebari first came to the United States in 1981 on a student visa from the Republic of the Congo, eventually forced to quit because he couldn’t afford it, thus violating his student visa. Trials for his deportation began in 1983 but were postponed for three years due to lack of a French interpreter.
During that time, Nguebari assimilated into the patchwork of American society. He began working for an electronics company, learned English and even found cultural proximity with other Congolese immigrants. The final issue for his deportation came in 1986. While awaiting appeal, he met Sabrina Krauss. They fell in love and married the next year. Today, Nguebari and Krauss have been married for 22 years, and have two full-grown American children—Olembe, 17, and Abanya, 21.
Nguebari still has a 23-year-old outstanding order of deportation that ICE came to put into action on the morning of April 20. After the arrest at his home, ICE held Nguebari briefly in San Francisco before moving him to a detention center in Eloy, Ariz., where he has remained without visitation rights. The hope is to appeal his order for deportation, which would enable Nguebari to post bond, have his trial moved back to San Francisco, and become a citizen.
Krauss says that she and her husband were never trying to skirt immigration laws. They had filed for citizenship for Nguebari nearly 10 years ago, and, after nine years in limbo, he was eventually denied. Krauss thought, if anything, they would get a letter in the mail regarding his deportation rather than having officers arrive at their family home to arrest him. Nguebari renews his driver’s license, pays his taxes and started a nonprofit called the United Africa Club. He and Krauss have lived in the same house for 15 years and remained in contact with immigration authorities. “A simple letter would have sufficed,” Krauss says. “We were never trying to hide from anyone.”
A fundraiser to defray Nguebari’s legal costs featuring live music, food and drink, a silent auction and massages is planned for Friday, May 22. Krauss and her children only hope to bring their husband and father back home. Sebastopol Community Center. 390 Morris St. 7pm. $20 donation suggested. 707.823.1511. Donations can also be submitted online at http:-/okili.chipin.com