Glenwood waiter faces deportation
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” To Anita Wan, it’s unfair that her former employee Akim Gama is sitting in a detention facility in Aurora facing deportation to Zimbabwe.
Wan is the general manager of Rivers Restaurant, where Gama worked for about four years until federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehended there him Sept. 11.
Wan said the arrest was “low key,” professional and happened while Gama was cutting bread in the kitchen before the restaurant opened.
“I don’t feel that it (deportation) is right for somebody who wants to be in the country legally, entered legally, worked, paid taxes and is trying to do his best to ask permission to stay,” Wan said. “These are the people we want in the country.”
Gama, 29, has been described as a friendly, charming person who loves music and was an excellent waiter. He’s visited several schools and discussed Africa and troubles in his homeland.
“He’s extremely popular in town,” said Marty Martinez. “He got along with everybody in town. Everybody liked him.”
Martinez, an attorney by day, knows Gama from playing music at Rivers and said he’s helped Gama file his taxes.
Wan and Martinez said Gama came here legally on a work visa and had been seeking asylum in the U.S. Federal agents picked him up after Gama missed an August 2006 court date for immigration proceedings, which brought him to their attention.
“If you miss an immigration hearing, they assume that you’ve abandoned the case,” Martinez said.
Gama’s attorney, Mark Barr, said Gama may have gotten the court date confused in his own calendar, or the courts may have changed it to an earlier date or made some mistake.
The detention facility in Aurora directed phone calls for comment and to request an interview with Gama to a spokesperson in Texas who didn’t return phone messages.
Gama came to the country in 2000. He said he came to the U.S. to escape political turmoil in Zimbabwe. He arrived with the help of an Irish businessman he met while working at a hotel near Victoria Falls. The man owned hotels throughout the United States, including Glenwood’s Ramada Inn, and offered Gama a job.
Close to 200 people attended a fundraiser Saturday to help Gama pay his legal fees and assist with other costs. Wan said the event raised about $8,000.
“Basically, when they do deport him, it will be whatever he has in his pocket and that’s all, so he will have nothing to start out with for money,” Wan said.
Wan said she’s already paid almost $2,000 in legal costs for Gama so far and estimates he may need up to another $5,000 to pay lawyers to try to get him another hearing in his immigration case. She doesn’t want him deported.
“Basically he is in fear of his life if he goes back to Zimbabwe because the political climate is so violent there,” Wan said.
Barr is trying to get an immigration judge to hear the case again, but he said that Gama’s in a tough spot after missing the court date.
“There is a chance. We wouldn’t be working on it if we thought it was completely hopeless, but he is in a very bad position right now,” Barr said. “We’re trying to be optimistic, and at this point this is kind of a last shot.”