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Medill's Immigrant Connect Story Back in the News

Northwestern journalism students break story of refugeeā€™s fight to remain in country

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May 8, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Eugene Peba -- a Nigerian refugee living in Chicago whose battle for asylum in the United States was first reported in 2010 by Northwestern University journalism students -- is back in the news as his fight to remain in the country reaches new levels.

Medill journalism students chronicled Peba’s story in late 2010 as part of Immigrant Connect, an online network providing news and information for immigrants, refugees and their communities that was developed by Medill Professor Jack Doppelt and his students. They continue to update the story on Immigrant Connect. 

Peba, a 28-year-old member of Nigeria’s Ogoni tribe, was interviewed earlier this year on Chicago’s public radio station with Doppelt and Medill student Karen Chen. Last week, Chicago newspapers reported that Peba, a certified nursing assistant in Chicago, was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials May 3 and taken to Kenosha, Wis., to await deportation. 

“The entire experience has been a journey for us, as journalists and people,” said Northwestern sophomore Priyanka Tilve, who is part of the Medill student team reporting on Peba’s increasingly difficult situation. 

“Eugene’s story shows how different immigration policy can seem to the officials that enforce it and the immigrants it affects,” added Medill senior Adam Sege. “His arrest underscores the high stakes for many immigrants in Chicago and across the country.

Peba made an appearance at Medill last week after his marriage to his American wife was denied legal recognition. His Chicago-based immigration attorney  questions why the marriage was denied legal standing and why Peba, who has never been arrested for a crime, is being detained.

According to Peba, the homeland of the Ogoni people has been environmentally savaged by foreign oil companies since petroleum was discovered on their land in the late 1950s and he himself suffered beatings from age 9 on for participating in protests against the oil giants.

In addition to Chen, Tilve and Sege, the student team working on Peba’s case also includes Medill sophomore Emily Jan. 

To read the original Immigrant Connect profile of Peba and recent news of his detention, visit Immigrant Connect at http://www.immigrantconnect.org/2012/05/05/ogoni-refugee-eugene-peba-may-soon-be-deported/, the Sun-Times at http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/12323870-418/nigerian-picked-up-in-rogers-park-to-face-deportation.html and the Tribune at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-peba-deportation-20120507,0,3836865.story.