Future of San Francisco restaurant unclear after owner arrested on immigration-related charges

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The future of a beloved restaurant in San Francisco's Mission District is unclear. The owner was arrested and charged with obtaining his U.S. citizenship illegally.

Born in Senegal and raised in France, Marco Senghor immigrated to San Francisco in the 90's and opened Bissap Baobab. "I took this place because nobody wanted to be here and I built it up from scratch," said Senghor about his business, which is a blend of a restaurant, bar and dance hall, that has become a neighborhood staple at 19th and Mission Streets. "This is a goal of every people who has a dream coming to America, is owning a piece of property. So I've been working so hard for it."

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With a small business loan from the city, Senghor says he was able to buy the building from his landlord last year. But now, that is all in jeopardy. Last week, he was arrested for allegedly obtaining his U.S. citizenship illegally. The charges, filed on July 26th by Acting U.S. Attorney for Northern California, Alex G. Tse, are "Procurement of Citizenship Contrary to Law" and "Procurement of Citizenship for a Person Not Entitled to Citizenship."

"It's terrible the way they've treated him and people like him, especially those people like him, who have contributed so much, to so many, in our community," said Senghor's defense attorney, Jeffrey Bornstein.

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He says Senghor pleaded "not guilty" to both charges and that the U.S. government is overreaching on a case that didn't need to go to criminal court. "The claim is there are false statements that he made in connection with that application and I'm telling you that they relate back to an incident earlier in 2000, where he was mislead and received some terrible, terrible advice from people that took advantage of him."

Senghor says he's going to fight the charges, but that if worse comes to worse and he has to leave the U.S., he hopes that somehow his business will survive in this community.

His next court date is September 13.
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