An African man who has lived in Pocatello for more than a decade and is facing likely deportation from the United States saw his American family for what could be the last time Sunday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials planned to remove Chakanetsa Christopher Matimba to his native Zimbabwe on Tuesday unless the federal Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia grants a request to postpone his deportation, according to Matimba’s wife, Deon Matimba.
“I woke up today to a missed call and voicemail from Chris (Matimba) where he called and hung up,” Deon said. “I called back and learned that they are starting to move him, he will be sent back to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, and they have transported him to the Elmore County Jail in Mountain Home before they fly him away.”
Before he was arrested and detained, Matimba had lived in Pocatello for more than 16 years since coming here in 2002 to attend Idaho State University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business in 2011 and married Deon in 2012. He is the stepfather to Deon’s two children and the father of an 11-year-old son named Dominique Matimba.
“I took Dominique with us on Sunday to see Chris,” Deon said. “We were able to spend an hour with him through the glass. When Chris was trying to explain to Dominique that he was going away he laid his head down and just sobbed. So did Dominique.”
Prior to being transported to the jail in Mountain Home, Matimba had been incarcerated at the Jefferson County Jail in Rigby since June 5, when he was arrested after a routine check-in at an ICE facility in Idaho Falls. During that visit, Matimba was detained because ICE issued an order for his removal from the country in 2007 that was never satisfied.
The order for Matimba’s removal was issued after he pleaded guilty to domestic battery in 2007, which essentially made it illegal for him to remain in the U.S. This order of removal was issued despite Matimba serving his domestic battery sentence of three years of probation and successfully working to have the conviction entirely removed from his criminal record.
It also did not matter that Matimba had been in regular contact with immigration officials for 11 years after his conviction, nor that he maintained a clean criminal record for longer than a decade outside of the domestic battery conviction.
Matimba’s Boise-based attorney, Chris Christensen, has exhausted all options to try and prevent the removal of his client. Christensen in August appealed the original order of removal issued in 2007 and filed an emergency stay request, or a document that asks ICE to postpone Christopher’s removal from the country.
Christensen told the Journal on Monday that he was told it could take the BIA anywhere from four months to a year to rule on the appeal since the date it was filed, adding that the emergency stay request would not be heard unless Christopher’s deportation was “imminent,” or occurring within the next five days.
Christensen called the BIA on Friday via a hotline the agency has established for emergency situations. He was unable to reach any officials and left a message. Christensen said he has called the same number at least once every week for the past three weeks, and the first contact with an official came Monday.
“When I talked to the clerk on the (BIA) emergency stay hotline today, he assured me that the board will rule on that motion for an emergency stay before ICE attempts to effectuate his deportation,” Christensen said on Monday. “Obviously we are running out of time and all I have is a verbal confirmation that this will happen.”
Deon Matimba said the process has taken an emotional toll.
“These emotions are so extreme. You are either up, or just smashed into the ground,” Deon said. “It’s like you are mourning him but he is still alive.”