An online petition launched last Friday is asking immigration officials to release Bangally Fatty, an undergraduate student and father from the Gambia who was reportedly picked up by immigration officials on September 18. Since the petition's launch, 2,500 students and faculty at the University of Washington have signed their names onto the request.
According to the petition, Fatty is an International Studies undergraduate who was enrolled in fall classes, but missed every one thus far in the fall quarter presumably because he is being detained. Faculty members say he's the first UW student who, to their knowledge, has faced deportation proceedings under the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.
"While it seems unlikely he's the first student in the entire university who has been detained and has faced deportation, he's the first who has come to the attention of the institution under this administration," the petition from University of Washington community members reads. "Others may simply disappear from our classes without explanation, but in Bangally's case his wife contacted his professors immediately after his detention, and members of the UW community began to mobilize support for this family."
According to the UW petition writers and court records from Fatty's legal representation, Fatty originally came to the United States 15 years ago as a labor trafficking victim. This should make him eligible for something called a T-visa, but T-visas sometimes take months or years to obtain.
On October 13, Fatty's lawyer, director of the University of Washington's immigration law clinic Christopher Strawn, petitioned for a stay that would temporarily block Fatty's deportation. Strawn also filed a writ of habeas corpus, a proceeding that would force immigration officials to demonstrate why they detained Fatty. Three days later, US District Judge Marsha Pechman temporarily granted the stay on deportation proceedings.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Seattle office has not yet confirmed to The Stranger that Fatty is being held at the Northwest Detention Center, or why he became a priority for deportation proceedings.
In 2016, the United States sanctioned the Gambia for refusing to provide paperwork that would allow the US to deport Gambian nationals. In October of last year, the US government, in response, refused to issue visas to allow Gambian government officials to travel to the US. According to Gambian news sources, Gambian officials have started complying with US deportation requests.