Immigration: Dad Can Take Bodies to Mali
Wednesday March 14, 2007 10:46 PM
By VERENA DOBNIK
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – The man whose wife and four children killed in a fire in the Bronx won special permission Wednesday to return to the United States after taking their bodies to his African homeland for burial.
Mamadou Soumare had faced the possibility of not being able to accompany his family’s remains for fear he wouldn’t be allowed to return to New York.
A space heater was blamed for the fire last week in the building that Soumare’s family shared with Moussa Magassa, the father of five other children who died in the blaze.
On Wednesday, the federal Citizen and Immigration Services office in Manhattan gave Soumare a so-called “advance parole” that will allow him to return to the United States from Mali.
“We’re happy we’re able to do it,” said an agency spokesman, Shawn Saucier.
Saucier would not say what Soumare’s current immigration status is or why he needs the parole, citing federal privacy laws.
Soumare had applied for asylum in 1992, but the case was never adjudicated, said Sen. Charles Schumer.
Rep. Jose Serrano said after Monday’s funeral for the 10 fire victims that some members of the Soumare family may be living in the United States without immigration papers.
Advance parole for re-entering the country typically is issued to people living in the United States who have applications pending for legal residency.
Soumare’s family is to be flown back to Mali later this week and buried in his remote village of Tafaciriga. In addition to the four children who died, Soumare has three sons in Mali.
“He goes home to three children. This is a day of light in what was a week of hell for this man,” immigration lawyer Michael Wildes said after his client received the re-entry permit.
The Magassa children were buried in New Jersey.
Three surviving fire victims are still hospitalized in good to fair condition.