Deaf, disabled Nigerian faces deportation 34 years after he moved to the US on student visa.

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Deaf, disabled Nigerian faces deportation 34 years after he moved to the US on student visa.

Below is the latest update as at Sep 21, 2018:

ICE halts deportation of deaf, disabled Nigerian by at least 30 days

U.S. immigration authorities have halted for at least 30 days the deportation of Francis Anwana, a deaf and disabled Detroit immigrant from Nigeria whose case has garnered increasing support.

Anwana, 48, and his attorneys met with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials on Friday to discuss his case, which will be reviewed over the next month. His next meeting with ICE is in late October.

ICE had previously ordered that Anwana leave the U.S. by Sept. 11, only giving him five days advance notice. Attorneys for Anwana with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center then filed a stay of removal request, asking to put his deportation on hold.

ICE told Anwana’s attorneys they have accepted his stay of removal application and are reviewing it, said Ruby Robinson, an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

Francis Anwana, who is deaf and cognitively-impaired, first came to Michigan when he was 13 to learn lip reading and sign language. CREDIT COURTESY OF FRANCIS ANWANA

ICE will review the case over the next 30 days and later make a decision. ICE halting  his deportation comes after a public outcry from advocacy groups and elected officials. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, has introduced a congressional bill that would block the deportation.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has also been advocating for Anwana, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years. He has no criminal record, say his attorneys.

“We take seriously our commitment to advocating on behalf of Michigan’s deaf community, a community to which Francis Anwana has belonged for 34 of his 48 years,” Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said in a statement. “His only means of communication is in American Sign Language. Even without considering his cognitive challenges, he is entirely unprepared to negotiate a new life in what to him is a foreign country.”

Arbulu said: “At heart, this is not a political issue. This is not even an immigration issue. This is a civil rights issue and a humanitarian issue.”

Born in Nigeria, Anwana came to the U.S. at the age of 13 on a visa to study at the Lutheran School for the Deaf and later the Michigan School for the Deaf. His visa expired as the directors of schools and group homes he stayed at moved around and his case was forgotten.

In addition to being deaf, Anwana can’t speak and has cognitive disabilities that put him at a second-grade reading level, said his advocates. He lived in Flint for years before recently moving to Detroit, where he now stays in an adult foster care home on Detroit’s west side. He mows lawns and cleans floors at a nearby church.

In 2006, an attorney applied for political asylum on his behalf, but was denied and he was ordered removed. But he was allowed to stay in the U.S. and checked in regularly with ICE.

That changed as the Trump administration has sought to deport more undocumented immigrants. The first week of September, he was told he had to leave by Sept. 11.

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for ICE, said: “Mr. Anwana, a citizen of Nigeria illegally residing in the U.S., was admitted to the United States in 1987 as an F-1 nonimmigrant student, but violated the terms of his admission by remaining in the U.S. when he was no longer enrolled in school, which made him subject to removal.”

Iain Levine, a Deputy Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Even by the standards of inhumanity that we have come to expect from the Trump administration, this is breathtaking in its heartlessness.”

In a video posted Friday after his meeting with ICE, Anwana said through a sign language translator: “I want to stay here in America.”


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