We are thrilled to share the news that our community member Prince Gbohoutou was released from ICE custody on February 21, 2019! Prince was in detention for over 10 months, and his long journey to freedom is a story of incredible strength and resilience, and amazing community support from Sanctuary DMV supporters and many partner groups. Please see his full story and our efforts below.
Prince Gbohoutou is an asylum seeker from the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) who has been living in the U.S. for the past 12 years since he was brought here as a 14-year-old, is DACA-eligible, is married to a U.S. citizen, and has built a career as an artist. Prince, who lives in New Carrollton, MD, was detained by ICE on April 19, 2018 when he voluntarily appeared for a check-in with his wife Shaniece and two Sanctuary DMV accompaniers.
After Prince was detained, Shaniece, Sanctuary DMV, and the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network immediately launched a public campaign to demand his freedom. Together with other partners like UndocuBlack Network, we raised over $10,000 for legal fees, secured media coverage including a story in the Washington Post, lobbied all three of Prince’s elected officials in Congress, drove hundreds of calls to those elected officials as well as the Baltimore ICE field office, organized rallies outside the ICE field office and the Maryland jail where Prince was held for several months, and gathered thousands of petition signatures demanding his immediate release.
On May 24, 2018, without notifying Prince, his attorney, or his wife, ICE agents took Prince from the Maryland jail where he was being held to JFK airport with the intent of placing him on a plane to C.A.R. by way of Morocco. While handcuffed and shackled and despite being physically beaten on at least one occasion, Prince courageously insisted that he would be killed if returned, to the extent that the pilot of the commercial flight that ICE tried to force him onto refused to allow him to be boarded.
Prince was then returned to Maryland, where he was held at the Frederick County Detention Center for several months. We worked with RISE Coalition of Western Maryland and others to organize a vigil for Prince outside this jail, also using the opportunity to highlight the injustice of Frederick County’s contracts with ICE. In August, Prince’s stay of deportation was granted, but rather than being released from ICE custody, shortly after he was transferred to Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama – a facility often used to house long-term detainees (those they cannot deport immediately but do not wish to release).
While Prince was held in Etowah, Prince’s legal team pursued a variety of strategies to secure his release, and we continued to advocate with his elected officials as well as connected with Alabama-based movements like Shut Down Etowah and the Adelante Alabama Worker Center. Finally, on Thursday, February 21, 2019 – Shaniece’s birthday – Prince was released from ICE custody and allowed to return home.
Sanctuary DMV email blasts:
- May 7, 2018: Stop Prince and Marta’s Deportations!
- May 8, 2018: Sign Today: Ask Democratic Reps to Be Champions Against Deportation
- May 24, 2018: URGENT: Stop Prince’s Deportation
- May 24, 2018: Update on Prince: tweet today, call tomorrow
- May 25, 2018: Prince is here but still in danger: call now
- May 27, 2018: Prince stopped his own deportation with your help – now let’s get him released
- May 29, 2018: Emergency protest/rally for Prince this Thurs
- June 4, 2018: Ask Maryland Gov. Hogan to Help Free Prince!
- June 5, 2018: Vigil at Frederick County Jail this Friday, 7pm
- August 4, 2018: Good news for Prince Gbohoutou!
- August 31, 2018: ICE moved Prince to Etowah, Alabama – help keep his spirits up by writing him a letter
- February 23, 2019: PRINCE IS FREE!
Social media updates:
- April 25, 2018: First public notification on Prince’s detention
- May 25, 2018: Video update from Shaniece & Brandon after Congressional visits
- May 25, 2018: Photo of Shaniece in Sen. Van Hollen’s office
- May 28, 2018: Update after ICE attempted to deport Prince
- June 1, 2018: Update from Baltimore ICE office action
- June 9, 2018: Update from Frederick County Detention Center vigil
- September, 19, 2018: Renewed fundraising request
- February 24, 2019: Prince is free!
- May 27, 2018: Washington Post – “I’ll be killed if I go back”
- May 31, 2018: Baltimore Sun op-ed – Standing with undocumented immigrants
- June 6, 2018: WPFW 89.3 FM – Protecting the Fabric of Our Communities
- June 8, 2018: Frederick News-Post – Activists host vigil for asylum-seeker being held in Frederick jail
- June 18, 2018: Washington Post op-ed – End county sheriffs’ abusive agreements with ICE
- August 17, 2018: Frederick News-Post – Asylum seeker detained by feds moved from Frederick County jail
Rallies & protests:
- June 1, 2018: Rally at Baltimore ICE office – photos – video
- June 8, 2018: Vigil at Frederick County Detention Center – photos
Letters & petitions:
- Letter from Sen. Van Hollen to DHS Secretary Nielsen requesting Prince’s release
- Community letter of support signed by over 600 people
- Petition for Prince’s release signed by nearly 2400 people