Ben Sangari lost his battle to stay in Buffalo.
The native of Iran and a British citizen, who knew Bill Clinton and Colin Powell and planned to develop an urban farm on the city’s East Side, has been deported to the United Kingdom.
Sangari’s removal came just weeks after his plight – he was detained after overstaying his visa waiver by 20 days – became the subject of national media reports.
“I’ve never seen the government take this position and I think it’s shocking,” said Matthew L. Kolken, Sangari’s Buffalo immigration lawyer.
Kolken said he appealed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detained his client, and several federal lawmakers with no success.
He ultimately blames the Obama administration and what he calls its hypocritical approach to deportations. The administration has publicly indicated it would focus its deportation efforts on criminals and other high-risk detainees, not law-abiding visitors who are married to U.S. citizens.
Sangari and his longtime partner, Arlita McNamee, a Buffalo native, were married inside the Federal Detention Center in Batavia as part of their effort to keep him here.
Sangari was on a visa waiver program that allows visitors from certain countries to stay in the U.S. for 90 days. His deadline had passed when he was pulled over for speeding in Amherst last month.
In a recent column in the Huffington Post, McNamee said the case is just one example of the horror stories involving people seeking legal immigration status.
“When my husband was taken, the immediate and personal loss that we felt was indescribable,” McNamee wrote. “When he is deported, I will go with him, so I feel that my own country has expelled us and it is a painful realization.”
Sangari is well known for his work in education and was honored by Clinton at one of his annual conferences promoting the Clinton Global Initiative.
Sangari also is a fellow with the Eisenhower Foundation in Washington, D.C., a group now chaired by Powell.