Man showing a spot in mouth where there is a gap.

Bayong Brown Bayong alleging to the Ohio Immigrant Alliance he's missing a tooth after a corrections officer pushed him down a stairs.

Immigration activists from across the state claim U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)recently attempted to deport a Columbus resident who is an immigrant from Africa because he’s a key witness in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the ICE-contracted jail in Butler County.

The suit alleges correction officers at the Butler County jail, notorious for its treatment of immigrants, have beaten and verbally abused African and Muslim immigrant detainees with racial and religious slurs.

The allegations came to light after 50 detainees were able to sign and forward a letter to the Ohio Immigrant Alliance in October, which can be viewed here.

Part of the letter reads, “We the ICE detainees are afraid for our lives because it seems that the lawlessness of the Butler County jail is the norm which includes extremely poor treatment of detainees including but not limited to physical abuse.”

As many are aware, the jail is run by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones whose anti-immigration and staunch conservative bent has earned him the nickname “Ohio’s mini-Trump.”

Immigration activists claim a key witness in the federal suit, Mory Keita, a long-time Columbus resident and father to a three-year old girl, was fast-tracked this week by ICE to be deported back to his native Guinea.

But immigration attorneys C.K. Wang and Nazly Mamedova filed an emergency writ in federal court hours before Keita was to be on a plane at an ICE-contracted airport in Louisiana. A federal judge then ordered ICE to remove Keita from the deportation charter plane so he can provide testimony for the federal civil rights suit.

Even so, immigration activists say there was no word from ICE whether they would comply with the order and they are uncertain where Keita is being held at this time.

“After hours of being misled by ICE, we learned that Mory (Keita) was already on the plane en route to Africa,” stated Ohio Immigrant Alliance director Lynn Tramonte is a press release. “Mory is a first-hand witness to two brutal assaults against other African men detained for ICE in the Butler County jail. It’s no wonder ICE wants to disappear and silence him. ICE may act like a rogue police force, but the agency is not above the law. ICE must comply with (the federal judge’s) order and return Mory to Ohio to testify.”

Keita’s attempted deportation comes after two other Columbus residents – Bayong Brown Bayong and Ahmed Adem also from Africa – began speaking out to immigration activists and lawyers in September about their treatment at the jail which is just north of Cincinnati.

Fearing for their safety they filed their suit with the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Bayong alleges he was pushed down a stairs by a corrections officer and lost a front tooth. He was also beaten three times. An officer also told him, “I hope you die bitch.”   

“I feel very scared for my life in this facility every day,” Bayong told the Ohio Immigrant Alliance.

On December 10th, activists from across Ohio gathered outside the jail to show solidarity with Keita, Bayong, Adem, and other immigrants harmed there. 

The event featured moving testimony from Ohioans with first-hand experience of how immigration detention and Islamophobia are used to dehumanize people.

The following day detainees inside the Butler Jail were punished as retaliation for the public display of support, as reported by detainees to Lynn Tramonte. They were denied a regular break outside of their cells, in which they remain for up to 23 hours every day. 

“This is exactly the type of inhumane, degrading, and unconstitutional treatment that the detained men and advocates have brought to light in multiple complaints and legal actions,” said Tramonte. “Mory, Ahmed, and Bayong are so strong to be speaking up about these abuses while confined inside a jail, facing banishment from their homes, families, and lives in Ohio. They and their attorneys are pushing all of us to live up our country’s stated values of equality and religious liberty. This is a chaotic, devastating, and inhumane to operate a government, and things must change.”