Leaving for love: Family finds way to stay together amid deportation

How far would you go for love? Katrina Jabbi relocated her children from Wisconsin to West Africa so her family could be together.


Katrina Jabbi and her husband Buba Jabbi knew they wanted their family to stay together.

But after spending the last decade trying to legalize his citizenship status, Buba was deported last year.

Buba Jabbi spent 20 years in the United States. In the years since his visa expired, Buba Jabbi routinely checked in with immigration officials.

But last year, he was swept up as part of the Trump administration’s hard stance on immigration.

To keep the family together, Katrina Jabbi decided to move to The Gambia — Buba Jabbi’s home country in West Africa.

That also meant moving the couple’s three kids, Nalia, 7, Aisha, 3, and 6-month-old Noble, away from Katrina Jabbi’s parents in Wisconson.

“This is something I’ve been preparing for the past six to seven months,” Katrina Gabbi, 32, said.

One of the myths that exists with the United States’ immigration policy is that if a non-citizen marries an American citizen, that person can stay in the country.

But marriage does not automatically give an undocumented immigrant legal status.

U.S. citizens wrestle with a tough decision: stay in the only place they’ve known or follow their partner into the unknown.

“I’ve felt this guilt, all around for everybody — just trying to make everybody happy. I want the kids to be happy. I want to make sure my mom is happy, (make sure) my husband’s happy,” Katrina Jabbi said.

Buba Jabbi came to the United States in August 1995 on a temporary travel visa to attend the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reported.

The couple met in 2009 and married in 2013.

In 2010, a judge ruled that Buba Jabbi had to return to his native country.

But he was considered “undeportable” after The Gambia refused to provide travel documents for its citizens.

So he was required to check in annually with immigration officials to have work authorization renewed.

Katrina Jabbi told the newspaper he followed the rules every year. He was detained in February 2018.

He’s now barred from being in the United States for 10 years as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Leading up to her family’s move to reunite, Katrina Jabbi’s dad Dave helped her pack.

He and his wife are sad to see Katrina Jabbi and their grandkids leave, but hope their story will help change immigration laws.

“Breaking up families, it’s wrong,” Dave said. “It’s just simply wrong. There was discussion of the fact that (Katrina’s husband) wasn’t a legal citizen in the United States. I just never thought he would get deported because he was going to immigration … (and) following his responsibilities.”