The email came in at 12:34 p.m. Tuesday, and Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Elizabeth Matherne knew it was bad news.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had denied an emergency stay of removal that Matherne had filed on behalf of her client, Ademola Shobande.
Shobande, 56, has lived in the United States since 1991. He's been in Durham for more than two decades, where he cares for his two teenage sons who have special medical needs. He is scheduled to be deported at 10 p.m. Tuesday to Nigeria, his native country.
“In the most general sense, there is absolutely no reason for this man to be removed from the United States," Matherne said, adding that he does not have a criminal record. "Nothing changed in his case to justify his immediate detention."
Between 1993 and 2006, Shobande's request for asylum was in limbo — "pending," Matherne said. He was detained during a routine check-in with immigration in 2006 but was released on an Order of Supervision the following year.
Since then, Shobande has attended check-ins about every four months. In March, he was detained again, Matherne said.
A request to stay in the U.S. was filed April 3 and cited his “fears” of “persecution and torture if returned to Nigeria.” Matherne said she was unable to provide details of what might have prompted such fears.
“If he were allowed to be released on an Order of Supervision for only two more years, he would be able to adjust his status to Lawful Permanent Resident and continue to care for his disabled, U.S.-citizen children," she said.
Shobande has two sons, ages 19 and 17. In legal documents, Shobande's brother, Olujide, describes him as a loving father who cares “for his family deeply.”
Shobande's brother is also a U.S. citizen.
Shobande' older son, Oluwadurotini Shobande, has sickle cell disease.
Erin Argueta, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she had spoken with Shobande over the past several weeks while he was detained within the Erwin County Detention Center in Oscilla, Georgia.
She said that Shobande drives his son from the teen's college campus two hours away to doctor appointments in Durham on a monthly basis.
Shobande is scared that his son's health will deteriorate without his being able to make the drive, Argueta said.
Shobande's younger son, Ayobani “Ayo” Shobande, is severely autistic, Matherne said.
The teen's speech pathologist at the Duke Children's Primary Care Southpoint Clinic is quoted in Shobande's request to stay as saying “his father needs to be present as his presence is a positive influence on Ayo.”
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said the agency simply carries out the orders of federal judges.
Matherne said Shobande's pending deportation is a waste of resources.
“Even though the government is attempting to show increased enforcement, the only people that are going to be left in the wake of this – it is a tragedy – are his disabled children,” she said. "He does not have a criminal record."