More than 200,000 Kenyans could be living in the United States of America without valid documents and are at risk of being repatriated soon.
Most of them went to the country using student visas but were not able to renew them after their expiry a year later.
Former Kenya’s ambassador to the US Elkanah Odembo said the situation could be even worse as the embassy did not have the full number of Kenyan citizens living there because some had not registered with it.
“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.
Speaking when he appeared on the NTV’s Trend show on Friday night, the former ambassador who was recalled recently, said those who are in this category might have found life tougher when they landed and were unable to renew their visas.
“Life is not easy in the US. Some are forced to do more than one job to be able to cater for their upkeep. At times it might not be really easy to get a job so a good number struggle to pay their university tuition and subsequently denied student visas,” he added saying several universities denied study visas to students who were part-timers.
Thousands of Kenyan students are admitted to various institutions of higher learning in the US, some through scholarship or private arrangements. Other immigrants are winners of Green cards—the free visas giving them an opportunity to move to America.
The US legislators, especially those allied to the Republican party, have been pushing for a tighter immigration laws meant to make it harder for immigrants heading to the US.
The envoy also revealed that about 3,000 Kenyans are in various correctional facilities or facing cases in courts.
The revelation came after the Daily Nation carried an exclusive story last Monday that indicated a recent rise in deaths of Kenyans living in the US and probable reasons for that.
Mr Odembo, who served in the capacity for three years, urged the government to ensure those migrating are counselled well and provided with vital information that would help them survive as they get used to live in the foreign country.
Mr Odembo is back to the country after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government recalled all the envoys who had served more than two years in their present stations. He was replaced on an acting capacity by Ms Jean Kamau.