Nigerian says deportation may endanger her daughter Female circumcision called likely in mother's land

May 29, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Nigerian national released from the Dorchester County jail yesterday is fighting deportation, saying that her 10-year-old daughter could be forced to undergo female circumcision if they are sent back to her homeland.

Virginia Anikwata, 36, of Rockville, was released from jail yesterday after being held three weeks awaiting deportation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service said.

But if Anikwata is forced to return to Nigeria, her daughter, a U.S. citizen, could be forced to undergo female circumcision, a common practice there, according to her lawyer, Martha Saenz.

Both the mother and daughter also would be considered property of her late husband's family and could be forced into polygamous marriages, Saenz said.

Anikwata has lived in the United States since 1986, when she entered the country legally on her husband's student visa. Godfrey Anikwata died in 1987, eight weeks after their daughter, Chenidu, was born in Washington.

Virginia Anikwata's status in the U.S. hinged on her husband's visa and with his death it changed from legal to illegal, Saenz said.

She has been fighting deportation ever since, she said.

"She's the sole source of support for her daughter and all she wants is to be allowed to stay in this country and continue supporting her," Saenz said.

Anikwata has worked as a domestic and helped provide child care for a family that sponsored her in the U.S., Saenz said. She also has earned a licensed practical nurse's certificate and has worked in retirement and nursing homes, she said.

Faced with deportation, Anikwata was jailed May 6, according to the INS.

Anikwata's request for a stay of deportation was denied last week by the INS Board of Immigration Appeals.

Her request for reconsideration is pending before the board, the INS said.

The INS released Anikwata yesterday, pending that appeal.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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