Popular High School Teacher Obain Attouoman Deported by Federal Government
BOSTON/Fenway - Obain Attouoman, a popular math teacher at Fenway High School, was deported yesterday to his native country of Ivory Coast.
Details are sketchy. Parents were alerted to the teacher's deportation through an automated phone call that was transmitted to all student's homes.
In the message, Fenway High Assistant Headmaster Kevin Brill said only that Attouoman was arrested and then deported following his regular visit with federal immigration authorities at the JFK Federal Building in Boston.
[5.22.08 Correction: Obain Attouoman was attending a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at the agency's office in Burlington, MA]
The exact reason for his deportation at this time is unknown. The official charge may have been that he "overstayed" his visa.
[According to the Boston Globe, an ICE spokesperson said she could not discuss details but added "...that individual is in ICE custody and has a final order of removal that was issued by an impartial federal immigration judge, and it's ICE's job to enforce the judicial order."]
In 2004, Attouoman, a native of the Ivory Coast, was scheduled to appear before an immigration judge to argue his case for asylum. He left his African home in 1992 due to repression in his country against members of dissident political parties. Attouoman was a member of a teacher's union, which also put him at risk of arrest and torture.
According to Attouoman, he missed his scheduled hearing because he misread the date on the summons. A judge subsequently ordered the teacher to be deported in early 2005.
But a loud campaign by activists, friends, and especially students and staff at Fenway High gained the 46 year old teacher a reprieve which lasted for two years, from March 2005 through March 2007. According to friends, Attouoman has been living and working in immigration limbo since then. He has been attending monthly visits with immigration officials since Spring 2007.
In October 2005, the Boston Globe reported that Congressman Ed Markey and Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy introduced legislation that would grant Attouoman permanent residency. The status of those bills at this time is unclear.
While not entirely unexpected, yesterday's deportation was shocking in its suddenness, according to friends. There were reports that Attouoman had been listed as a person the government would not immediately deport, but that detail could not be independently confirmed. Apparently, he was not allowed to make a phone call to his ex-wife nor pick up any belongings prior to being taken to Logan Airport.
[5.22.08 Correction: Attouoman is in fact married to an American citizen, according to his lawyer, Susan Cohen. The Boston Globe reported that his wife has filed paperwork with the federal government with the intent of invoking statutes that allow foreigners married to American citizens to stay in the country.]
Benjamin Goodman, a sophomore at Fenway who was studying for the state MCAS exam with Obain Attouoman's help, reported that an assembly was held at the school this afternoon. Student's were given background on the teacher's immigration status and told about the deportation.
Following the assembly, students were asked to write letters of support for the teacher, much loved for his ability to connect with students at all levels of aptitude, as well as his penchant for dressing in well tailored pinstriped suits.
According to friends, Fenway High officials are considering taking a low key approach to this latest turn in the saga. Rather than large public protests, they say officials will try to work within the system to try and convince US authorities to allow the teacher to return.
Attouoman is currently employed as a full-time, contracted teacher by the Boston Public Schools.
*Hear the Free Speech Radio News Report (May 23, 2008)