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Local Congolese family pleads with ICE to reunite with detained father

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-15 10:24:12-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A local family is desperately pleading to individual ICE officials to let them see their patriarch for the first time in 19 months. The Bakala family is seeking asylum after they say they barely escaped death in the Republic of Congo. Once they reached San Diego, the family of nine was separated.

17-year-old Marie Louise Bakala should be focusing on college. But right now, that is on hold.

"I am getting stronger, but it is not enough because I need my father back," Mari Louise said to the St. Luke's Episcopal Church congregation in North Park.

The Bakala's left a comfortable life in the Republic of Congo. Father Constantin was a computer engineer for the Ministry of Health. His wife Annie Kapongo was a shop owner and mother of seven. The Bakalas say it all changed when the new government stepped in.

Kapongo says because of Constantin's occupation, the family was targeted, brutalized, and even sexually abused by Congolese authorities.

Fearing for their lives, they came to San Diego in 2017 to seek political asylum.

"This family came across a world come to a country that will protect them, but instead, it has only been a continuing nightmare," Pastor Colin Mathewson said.

Annie Kapongo was released with an ankle monitor with the seven kids in San Diego. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] authorities detained Constantin in the East Coast alone. In February, a judge rejected Constantin's asylum case and appeal. But in March, he as given an emergency stay. Just last week, he earned the right to appear in front of a judge again, this time with a lawyer.

Friends and staff of St. Luke's are now pleading with ICE to grant Constantin parole, to be with his family. They say it would be a show of good faith, just as the Good Samaritan did in the Bible.

"There is an assistant field director, and there is a deportation officer out there in Atlanta," Pastor Mathewson said. "We are asking Christine and Michael today to help somebody that needs so much help. After 19 months of detention, to bring him back home with his family as he awaits his next court date."

"I hope that he will be here with us and we will be a family again," Marie Louise said.

"Please, please help me," Kapongo said through a French translator. "Send me back my husband."

Last year, the couple missed their 20th wedding anniversary because Constantin was detained. If he is not paroled soon, he will also miss his eldest daughter, Marie Louise's 18th birthday. The family's next court date is September 25, 2019.

10News reached out to ICE for comment on this case. Our calls were unreturned.