NewsCovering Louisiana


Louisiana French teacher released from jail

Posted at 3:24 PM, Jan 06, 2021

PINE PRAIRIE, La. — UPDATE: KATC has learned that Djibril Coulibaly has been released from jail Thursday after being arrested by ICE on Dec. 15.

According to his attorney, ICE never gives out a reason for any detainee's release and he is still subject to removal at any time.



ORIGINAL: Djibril Coulibaly who was arrested by ICE on December 15th is set to be released from jail tomorrow, according to his attorney Hiroko Kusuda.

People in several parishes worked to stop the deportation of a Coulibaly who arrived in the state 19 years ago. He's from Mali, an African country situated southwest of Algeria.

He and his wife lived in Opelousas, where their three children were born. A few years ago, they moved to Thibodaux, where he taught in Lafourche Parish schools. He disappeared last month, and Thibodaux Police were the ones who learned he had been arrested by ICE agents from Mississippi and was being held in Pine Prairie, awaiting deportation. Our media partners at The Advocate/Times Picayune have posted a detailed story about his situation, and you can read it here. Also, his friends have set up a petition to try to help; you can find it here. There's a GoFundMe to help set up as well, it is here.

We reached out to his employer, the Lafourche Parish School System, and they tell us that Coulibaly came to Lafourche Parish School System in 2012 with a work authorization. At that time his work authorization was up-to-date and he continued to receive a new one each year. Work authorization is a type of visa, we're told. The school systems typically consults an immigration attorney through this process.

Lafourche officials did not know he was detained until a friend of Coulibaly reached out to the school board asking for letters of support to send to Washington. They collected letters from the principal and teachers from the school where he was working and sent those in.

"He is a wonderful teacher. Everyone loves him. He's very well respected. We wish everything works out for the best for him. We would love him to come back and finish with us," says Bernita Deville, HR director for the school system.

We also reached out to CODOFIL, which supports the process of bringing teachers to the U.S. to teach French in Louisiana schools, including the French Immersion program.

Matt Mick, communications officer for CODOFIL, tells us that he was recruited by CODOFIL on a J-1 visa. Usually that lasts for three years, and then teachers who stay here to teach transition to an H-1B visa. That also transitions them out of CODOFIL's supervision, Mick said. Coulibaly would have transitioned out of the J-1 status back in 2004.

Deville tells us that he wasn't on an H-1B visa this year. According to his attorney, Coulibaly will be released Thursday. The attorney couldn't provide any further details, but said"we are going to work to help him in the immigration case as he will still face uncertainty."

This is a developing story; we'll update this as soon as we have more information.