Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to deport a man with special needs who overstayed his student visa 35 years ago, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Francis Anwana, now 48, came to the U.S. from Nigeria when he was 14 to attend the Michigan School for the Deaf, in Flint, the Free Press said. He now lives in an adult foster care facility in Detroit and does custodial work at a nearby church. His advocates told the Free Press that, due to a cognitive disability, he does not fully understand that he could soon be forced to leave.
ICE gave Anwana less than a week’s notice that they planned to deport him Tuesday, Michigan Public Radio reported. His deportation has since been delayed, and he has a meeting with ICE in two weeks.
“They didn't carry it out today, but they have indicated that they still intend to at some point,” Susan Reed, an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said in an email.
ICE’s Detroit field office did not return a request for comment.
Anwana’s case is part of a crackdown, under President Donald Trump, against longtime residents with no criminal records. ICE arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions went from 14 percent in fiscal year 2016 to 26 percent in 2017, according to ICE statistics, down from a high of 61 percent in 2009. ICE lawyers are also declining to close cases against longtime, non-criminal immigrants that they would have in the past, and actively trying to deport immigrants who have U.S. citizen children and spouses.
Even though these arrests have become more routine, Anwana’s case still shocked immigration advocates, who fear for his safety.
“With his condition, life in Nigeria will be very, very bad, and can lead to death for not receiving proper medical care,” Fatou-Seydi Sarr, founder of the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs, told the Free Press.
Since Anwana was denied asylum in 2008, he has met with ICE officials annually with an advocate for routine check-ins, according to Michigan Public Radio. In a Facebook post sharing photos of Anwana at Christmas events and weddings, his former teacher Diane Newman said he has become a part of her family.
“Deportation would separate him from the only country, family, and home he knows and would be detrimental to his health and well-being,” Newman’s post said.
Last week Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee, whose district covers Flint, where Anwana attended school, asked the ICE office in Detroit to delay his deportation. Kildee is also considering proposing a bill that would make Anwana a legal permanent resident, his spokesperson said.
“Francis was brought here as a child, and America is the only country he knows. Despite his disabilities, Francis continues to volunteer in the community and be an active member in his church. It would be wrong to deport Francis to Nigeria, where he has no family, means to communicate, or take care of himself. My office continues to work with Francis and his attorney on all options to allow for him to remain in the United States."
Cover image: An exterior view of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency headquarters is seen July 6, 2018, in Washington, DC. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence placed a visit to the agency and received a briefing on 'ICE's overall mission on enforcement and removal operations, countering illicit trade, and human smuggling.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)