From a letter sent to FFI in late March by Evariste Mugiraneza, who is currently detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.

As of today, ICE has reported 49 cases of COVID-19 at the facility.

I highly appreciate for your office to go ahead and post a summary about my stressful circumstances.

I am currently detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility pending removal proceedings. I have been in immigration custody since June 24, 2016.

DHS/ICE used its power and fabricated evidence to violate my freedom as an immigrant in the US and they took my refugee status. I am in the Appeal court in order to keep my status as a refugee.

I came to the United States on September 24, 2014 with my family. I was working a job in the Michigan State area. I was placed on probation in another state but at the time I did not understand what I was pleading. I have a language barrier because I am from another country (Democratic Republic of Congo). When I pled out, the criminal attorney said that I was advised about deportation, which is false. I never agreed to plead on charges that carry deportation, because I escaped from the DRC because of the systematic killing of the ethnic Tutsi group by the militant rebel groups. Among those killed were many of my cousins and aunts and uncles.

I fled with my family to neighboring Rwanda in 1997 where I remained until 2014. I stayed in two refugee camps in Rwanda, initially in Mudende for approximately four to six months, but as the Hutus continued to try and kill [Tutsis] in that camp I was relocated to the Gihember refugee camp. We lived in the refugee camp until 2013 then my family and I were admitted in the United States as a refugee. I never returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo because of past killings as well as the many killings of family members including a recent murder of my nephew in 2013 and of a cousin in 2016-2017.

I have not had any problems with any American citizens or any other persons. I do not have a criminal case, but a family case. I am not a criminal but my attorney took my case to trial without my understanding what was going on and this time conspired with the DHS/ICE to deport me because the criminal attorney never did his job. I was led to believe my case was closed and that I had to pay a surcharge of $375 and that I was free to go. I had already served a term of 5 months in Onodaga County Jail.

DHS/ICE never used my case; instead they used power and fabricated documents, and used fake travel documents to deport me to the same country I fled as a refugee.

Below is the sequence of events experienced by Mr. Mugiraneza as confirmed by documents provided by him:

  • On March 3, 2015, Mr. Mugiraneza was charged with a crime he said he did not commit, on charges that were later dismissed. He says his lawyer urged him to plea guilty, or that he would never have a chance to go home. He also says that he was misinterpreted by his Somali translator, who tried to make him accept and agree to the charges. He declined to do so. Two months later, in May 2015, he was shown a paper dated March 3 that purportedly contained his signature - Mr. Mugiraneza says the signature isn't his. He served 5 months in jail.
  • Less than a year later, on June 24, 2016, he was taken into custody by ICE.
  • On October 26, 2018 B.I.A. affirmed his removal order in which he was given 30 days to appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court to review the B.I.A decision.
  • However, four days later, on October 30, ┬áMr. Mugiraneza was served with documents requiring him to assist in obtaining a travel document - within 30 days. Mr. Mugiraneza did not sign Form I-229(a) nor did he sign the Instruction Sheet Regarding Requirement to Assist in Removal.
  • Also on October 30, Mr. Mugiraneza was given a Notice to Alien of File Custody Review indicating his custody status would be reviewed on or about January 1, 2019.
  • Eleven days later, on November 7, without Mr. Mugiraneza's knowlege, DHS/ICE again applied for travel documents. He also provided copy of a letter to the DRC embassy in Washington requesting travel documents, which he claims shows that DHS/ICE had conspired with B.I.A to obtain travel documents while he was still in the process of appeal. Yet on that same day, DHS confirmed that Mr. Mugiraneza was subject to removal/deportation "... based on a final order by ... the Board of Immigration Appeals."
  • A January 9, 2019 DHS form notes an order of final removal of November 19, 2007, even though Mr. Mugiraneza did not arrive in the US until 2014. Mr. Mugiraneza claims that DHS/ICE "intentionally and willfully" falsely reported the 2007 date. He believes that DHS/ICE cannot use false or fabricated documents to order his deportation, and that travel documents were requested without his knowledge to deport him before the Court had the opportunity to review his case.

Mr. Mugiraneza summarized these facts in a letter to DHS dated March 11, 2020.

As of April 30, Mr. Mugiraneza remains confined at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, NY.

ICE has confirmed 49 cases of COVID-19 at the facility.