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Deportation delayed for disabled Nigerian man

Immigration and customs enforcement officials said Friday morning they will delay the deportation of disabled Nigerian man Francis Anwana.

The decision comes just days after his caseworkers were told that Anwana would have to appear for deportation on September 11, less than a week after he was notified.

Francis Anwana in 1985
Credit Diane Newman
Francis Anwana in 1985

Anwana, a 48-year-old man who is deaf and cognitively impaired, came to Michigan in the early 80s to attend the Lutheran School for the Deaf.

After he graduated and his student visa expired, several people tried to help Anwana gain citizenship. But because he no longer had a valid visa, he was ineligible to gain legal status.

In 2006, ICE found out about Anwana’s overstay in the states. An attorney fought for Anwana’s right to claim asylum, but the request was denied, and in 2008, he was ordered to be removed from the country.

In the 10 years since the verdict, Anwana has remained in the United States, living in group homes and creating a community for himself here. Friends and lawyers say he doesn’t completely understand his immigration status because of his disabilities. Nonetheless, they say he has appeared with a caseworker in front of immigration officials each year and complied with their requests.

Diane Newman was Anwana's first teacher at the Lutheran School for the Deaf. Her family took Anwana in for holidays over the years, and in a Facebook post she put up Thursday evening, she called him an “an adopted and loved member of our family.” 

Newman says Anwana would have no opportunities or safety in Nigeria due to his disabilities. She says he was attacked as a child by guerillas, and his arm is still damaged from the event. Newman worries he'll run into similar -- or much worse -- situations if forced to return. 

“He's happy here, he's acclimated well, he doesn't cause any problems, and this is the life that he has wanted," she says. "And it would be a travesty... if he had to go back.”

Tania Morris Diaz is a staff attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. She’s been working on Anwana’s case, and she agrees that returning to Nigeria could be disastrous for him.

“We just believe that sending him back to Nigeria would basically be a death sentence for him as he needs desperately the care of other people,” Morris Diaz said.

Morris Diaz thinks ICE agreed to delay Anwana's deportation because of the short notice and special circumstances his case presents. She emphasized, though, that this is not a complete solution for Anwana. Morris Diaz says MIRC will continue their work with Anwana to keep him from being deported in the future.

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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