Elkanah Odembo’s revelations on illegal Kenyan Diaspora spark debate

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Odembo ObamaA revelation by Kenya’s former envoy to the US that there are at least 200,000 Kenyans in the United States illegally has sparked off a heated debate.

On Saturday, while quoting Mr Elkanah Odembo, theNation reported that the number could be even higher since most Kenyans do not register with the embassy.

Kenyans, especially those in the US, took to the social media with some expressing awe and others disputing the figure quoted.

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A comment on Nation.co.ke from a reader under the pseudo-name Sura Mbaya reads: “The process of obtaining papers is straight forward here if you stick to the law.

“Many people listen to erroneous advice from their peers, friends and families and end up getting out of status.

Speaking on Friday night on NTV’s The Trend show, Mr Odembo alleged that over 3,000 Kenyans are languishing in US jails and correction facilities.

“My estimation is that half of the 400,000 Kenyans living in the US do not have visas.

“That number could be even higher. It is a worrying situation considering that tighter immigration laws are being prepared by Congress that could see them sent home sooner,” said Mr Odembo.

However, Mr John Mulandi, a Kenyan based in Washington DC, sought to dismiss the figures saying:

“Where did Ambassador Odembo get his numbers given that the embassy has no data? This is speculation and it does not serve a good purpose,” he said on Twitter.

A reader from Nairobi also posted on Nation’s Facebook page saying; “If you can’t handle it out there, come back home.”

Margaret Marika, based in Atlanta, also appeared on the NTV show through Skype and told those disputing the figures to “stop the Kenyan knee-jerk-dismissal culture”.

“Kenyans should see this for what it is – a real challenge that needs to be addressed rather than vilifying the ambassador for merely stating his sincere observations,” she said during a phone interview with Nation.co.ke.

Thousands of Kenyan students are admitted to various institutions of higher learning in the US, some through scholarship or private arrangements.

Others came to the US through the Diversity Visa (DV) programme Green—the free visas popularly known as Green cards giving them an opportunity to live and work in America.

Mr Odembo’s revelation emerged after Nation.co.ke carried an exclusive story last Monday indicating a rise in deaths of Kenyans living in the US.

In recent times, many States have tightened their laws making it increasingly difficult for Kenyans who fall out of status to either continue with education or have gainful employment.

Mr Odembo, who served as Kenya’s envoy for three years, urged the government to ensure those migrating are counselled well and provided with vital information to help them survive as they get used to living in a foreign country.

The debate over the exact number of Kenyans residing in the US has been raging for a while now and this latest revelation by Mr Odembo may whet the appetite of Kenyan politicians eyeing the Diaspora vote come 2017.

It is largely expected that Kenyans living outside the country will participate in the vote.

By BMJ MURIITHI

-nation.co.ke

RELATED STORY:More than 200,000 Kenyans are in the US illegally

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