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MDCR Director Arbulu Issues Statement on Pending Deportation of Francis Anwana

September 13, 2018

Lansing, MI–Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, today released the following statement on the pending deportation of Francis Anwana.

“The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is home to the Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. 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.

Until now, Francis has been welcome here. He has not hidden or tried to evade authorities. He has reported regularly to immigration officials as required.  And from all we know now, deporting him to Nigeria would almost certainly be catastrophic for him. 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.  

We recognize that immigration is a federal matter. But we are responsible for ensuring that while Francis resides in Michigan, his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act are protected.  At this point, we cannot say that they are.

Under the ADA, Francis has a right to equal and effective communication. He cannot meaningfully take part in any legal or administrative process without the services of a qualified sign language interpreter. Without access to effective communication, his health, safety and wellbeing are at risk. Before the federal government takes any action, they need to demonstrate that they are safeguarding his right to effective communication and that he has not been discriminated against on the basis of his disabilities.

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. I urge the Federal government to make every effort to not uproot this man who has made Michigan his home since he was a child of 14 and who has been a positive force for good in his community, and to support his rights under the ADA.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to


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