Raleigh resident Abdoulie Sowe’s family call his looming deportation akin to a death sentence. Sowe, a father of three, is the recipient of a kidney transplant and suffers from other health problems requiring medication unavailable in his native Gambia, a small west African nation where half the population lives in poverty. 

Two dozen supporters of Sowe gathered in front of the Federal Building on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh Thursday night to protest his deportation, including representatives from Muslims for Social Justice and Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia. The protesters called on Senator Thom Tillis to advocate for Sowe’s freedom so he can get a stay of removal and return to his family. 

Sowe was taken into ICE custody during a routine check-in July 9 at Charlotte’s ICE office. His wife and daughter waited in the car for four hours waiting for Sowe to come out before an officer informed them Sowe had been detained. He is currently being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, according to family. 

ICE was unable to provide information on Sowe’s immigration case. 

Family said Sowe has been in the country for over twenty-five years. ye suffers from kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes which require medication to manage, including anti-rejection medicine for a kidney transplant. The medicine he needs is not available in Gambia, according to his daughter Fatima Sowe, twenty-one.

“If they send him back, he will not survive. He will die,” Fatima Sowe said. 

Sowe’s six-year-old daughter Mariam was also at the protest, holding a sign reading, “Free my daddy.”

Sowe is the breadwinner for the family, and his absence has caused significant hardships for his wife and three daugthers.

“Our whole lives have been rearranged and turned upside down,” Fatima Sowe said. 

Media coverage of ICE detentions tend to focus on Latin American immigrants, Protester Rashida James-Saadiya said, and African and Caribbean immigrants are often overlooked.

“The stories of black immigrants are missing,” James-Saadiya said. “It’s really important for us to support this family.”

Event organizer Manoor Cheema, of Muslims for Social Justice, said advocacy and public action are the only hopes Sowe has to return to his family. 

“We are all united against this kind of oppression. Immigrant and refugee rights are part of a broader movement against all kinds of oppression and the only way we’re going to win is when we unite all these struggles,” Cheema said. 

UPDATE: ICE confirmed Sowe is in ICE custody late Friday. Although Sowe was issued a deportation order in 2001, “the only reason he wasn’t removed 17 years ago is his country refused to issue the documents necessary to return him at that time,” said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. “The U.S. government levied Visa sanctions against the Gambia in 2016 in response to that practice.”

Although Cox could not disclose medical care given to Sowe while in custody, he noted “Although ICE could not disclose the medical care given to Sowe, he noted that, “ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care,” and that “at no time during detention will a detainee be denied emergent care.”