RIDGELEY, W.Va. — It has been a year since Serge Babo was reunited with his family following a 14-month deportation to his native city in Cameroon and he is more than happy to be home and re-adjusted.
“I have the ability to adapt to any situation,” said Babo. “It’s been a good year so far and there are many more to come. Through this situation, I have learned not to take anything for granted because you don’t know when something can be gone.”
Babo has experienced some positive changes in his life since his return.
Babo and his wife Brittney are expecting their third child, Jayvyn, due in November.
Babo now has a new job working in the IT department at Western Maryland Health System.
Babo returned to his former job to work as a treatment associate with children at Burlington United Methodist Family Services and worked there until he recently accepted his new job at WMHS.
For Babo, the hardest part of the deportation was being away from his wife and sons, Jabari and Jeremiah, now 3 and 5. It was also equally hard for the family to be away from him.
“Jeremiah was going to start school soon and I didn’t want to miss that,” said Babo.
Brittney Babo and their sons traveled to Cameroon in 2001 to visit Babo.
“When Jeremiah came to visit I could tell something was missing,” said Babo. “When my sons came to visit I was afraid they wouldn’t know who I was. But, as they say, ‘Blood is thicker than water.’”
Babo’s family can’t help but feel anger as they recall the day in May 2010 when Babo was arrested at his home in Ridgeley while he was washing dishes.
“People don’t realize what it does to the kids to see that happen,” said Brittney Babo.
“I prayed every day that God would bring my daddy home, ” said Jeremiah.
Thanks to prayers, family, community support, elected officials and a lawyer, Babo was able to obtain a visa and returned home on Oct. 23.
“Words can’t describe how thankful I am for everyone,” said Babo. “My advice for anyone going through this type of situation would be to number one believe in God he will get you through everything and number two get the best lawyer possible.”
The Babo’s went through 11 lawyers before finally getting the help they needed from Robert Whitehill, an immigration lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Babo said that he was very thankful for Wes Holden, director of constituent services at Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s office; Mike Price, CEO and president of BUMFS and Doug Rinard, his father-in-law; all of who played an integral part in his return home. Babo also said that Rinard was working with immigration on a daily basis to bring him home.
“My father-in-law told me that he wished weekends didn’t exist so he could work longer. Wes took my case to heart and kept in contact with me while I was in Cameroon through email. Mike wrote the type of letter (to the governor) that makes you feel appreciated in life,” said Babo. “It was the nicest letter that anyone has ever written for me.”
Babo said that a week after Price wrote the letter, he was able to obtain his visa.
“When he worked with the children before being deported, he was able to reach many troubled children that other staff could not,” wrote Price in his letter. “Serge is a big man with a gentle touch and his voice was calming to the children.
“Most of the children we serve seek hope and love. Serge was able to provide this. After he was removed from the agency, many of the children would see this as another family member taken from them.”
Babo said he’s come to learn that the immigration system in the United States is broken and that immigration has become a sensitive subject for a lot of lawmakers.
“I understand the U.S. can’t take care of the whole world,” said Babo, who suggested that visas should be provided to good, honest people, who are willing to do the jobs no one else wants to do.
“The system is so broken; everything is about money and power,” said Babo. “Something has to be done about the immigration system, too many family members and spouses are being hurt and lawmakers don’t want to deal with them. I always had work permits and paid my taxes.”
Babo said he has encountered a lot of people via Facebook who have or are going through the same situation.
Babo has received his 10-year green card, which he will turn in to obtain a citizenship in 2014.
Babo’s story, as well as a family picture, is currently featured on photographer MacIndoe’s website.
Born in Scotland, MacIndoe has shot advertising campaigns and annual reports for IBM, ESPN, MasterCard, Microsoft and Fidelity and photographed a wide range of subjects for publications including The Guardian and The New York Times Magazine, according to his bio.
Contact Elaine Blaisdell at firstname.lastname@example.org.