Ibashi-i, a contortionist on the Pearl Street Mall, performs for a small crowd Tuesday.
Ibashi-i, a contortionist on the Pearl Street Mall, performs for a small crowd Tuesday. (Stephen Swofford/For the Camera)

DENVER -- A well-known Boulder contortionist and street performer appeared in a Denver immigration court Thursday as part of an effort to halt the government's deportation proceedings against him.

Mitford Theodore Brown -- better known as "Ibashi-i" -- came to the government's attention early last year when he tried to re-enter the United States after visiting his native St. Kitts, a tiny Caribbean island nation, and was found by customs officials in Puerto Rico to have been convicted of marijuana possession in 2007 in Denver, said his lawyer Joy Athanasiou.

She said that discovery prompted the government to begin deportation proceedings against her client, who is a lawful permanent resident here but not a U.S. citizen.

Brown, a 53-year-old staple of the Pearl Street Mall busking scene, has treated thousands of people over the last 19 years to his performances, in which he twists and folds his body and squeezes it into impossibly cramped spaces -- such as a 20-inch Plexiglas cube.

He said he feels deeply a part of the Boulder community -- where he has lived since the late 1980s -- and wants to continue living here. He has four children who are U.S. citizens, two of whom accompanied him to court Thursday.

"I'm feeling alright," he said after his hearing. "I just put my trust in the father."

On Thursday, an immigration judge scheduled Brown's next hearing for Sept. 30, during which he will either admit or deny the charge the government has filed against him, which alleges that the drug conviction is enough to merit deportation.

Following that hearing, Brown will be able to make an extensive case to a judge as to why he should be spared deportation.

To remain in the country, Athanasiou said, Brown must start by proving to immigration authorities that he has lived in the United States as a resident for seven continuous years.

"As a returning lawful resident, if a person has seven years of continuous residence, he is eligible for cancellation of removal," she said.

He must also show that he provides value and service to the community, has good moral character and would suffer hardship if he were forced to leave, Athanasiou said.

Working against his quest to stay in the country, she said, would be evidence of an immigration violation or the existence of a criminal record. Brown's run-ins with the law, records show, include traffic violations, petty marijuana possession offenses and a domestic violence complaint.

Athanasiou said the government has a lot of discretion when evaluating her client's case.

"Immigration proceedings are much more discretionary as to weighing any positive factors and any negative factors," she said.

Brown, who said he first came to the United States in 1984 to entertain people at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, eventually moved to Boulder and stayed because of the friendliness of the people and the manageable winters.

"The people was kind of warm," he said. "It felt comfortable."

When asked if he'll continue to perform on the Pearl Street Mall as his case unfolds, Brown is unambiguous.

"Always," he said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or aguilarj@dailycamera.com.