Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sierra Leone native released

Expecting to give birth to 3rd child soon as ICE eyes asylum case
By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Thierno Seydou Camara’s prayers for compassion and a change in luck appear to have been answered.
Camara’s wife, Mahawa Conde, shown with their son, Fode, 2, a native of Sierra Leone, is returning to Maryland to give birth to their third child and be reunited with her young son and daughter.
“It’s a big relief to have her back with me and the kids,” Camara said Tuesday after getting the news, as he prepared for the five-hour drive to New Haven to meet her at the Yale Law School.
Through the intervention of students at the school, who organized appeals by Maryland’s two U.S. senators, Conde will be out on supervised release for the next three months, reporting in to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“I asked everyone I can to please help us, to put our family back together,” Camara, 32, said in a phone interview. “I’m so grateful to these people,” he said of the young lawyers.
Student Deborah Marcuse said Conde’s story of abuse in Sierra Leone, where she was a sex slave for two years during that country’s civil war, and her forced genital cutting and mutilation, was “pretty much the most horrifying we’ve ever seen.”
Conde, 35, was transferred to ICE on Tuesday, the day she was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, where she finished serving a six-month sentence for theft — a complicating factor in an already complicated life.
Marcuse was ecstatic with ICE’s decision to let Conde spend some time with her family before the lawyers sort through her immigration status. She never completed a request for asylum.
Her husband was granted asylum after fleeing persecution in Guinea, which was before the couple met and married in the United States.
“They just walked her (Conde) out the door,” Marcuse said of ICE officials in Hartford, who had held her for most of Tuesday while higher officials considered her release.
Paula Grenier, spokeswoman for ICE out of Boston, said that while she couldn’t speak to the specifics of the case, “in general, ICE routinely reviews matters of humanitarian concern and makes decisions based upon those concerns.”
Marcuse said they pushed for a timely decision by ICE after a doctor at the Yale Medical School reviewed Conde’s medical records and was concerned that the baby, due next week, may have kidney complications.
For the past six months Camara has been juggling courses in computer science while working as a computer technician and taking care of the couple’s 2-year-old son, Fode, and 8-year-old daughter, Sara, both U.S. citizens.
Marcuse said they only got involved about a week ago, after Conde heard about them while in Danbury.
For now Camara said if his wife is deported to Sierra Leone, “it will be the end of her life,” as it is still dangerous. Camara said he would have to stay here with the children. “I couldn’t have my kids live in that kind of environment. This is not their fault,” he said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at or 789-5731.

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