CINCINNATI — Issa Sao is in tears because this week marks two years since he’s seen his American wife and U.S.-born kids.
His family is in Cincinnati, but he's in Senegal, a West African country.
“The lifestyle is way different; some people like you wouldn’t make it here,” said Sao.
He ended up there after a 14-year battle to stay in the U.S. He came here illegally in 2004 but was allowed to live and work in the states while he fought for asylum.
But he lost, and everything changed.
“This (laundry bag) was all I had when they were trying to deport me,” said Sao.
He was arrested in 2018, sent from jail to jail for months and was labeled a fugitive.
“You don’t eat, and they put chains on your hands and feet. I got tired and weak. (I) lost a lot of weight," said Sao.
He was eventually sent back to the place he’d been trying to escape—his home country, Mauritania, which is known to still enforce slavery.
He made it out to neighboring Senegal with the help of close friends, but he is still fighting to come back to the place he considers home: Cincinnati.
“I've been through a lot between 2018 and now, but I got faith. I just hope everything is gonna change,” said Sao.