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Family gets a reprieve from deportation

UPDATE • Immigration officials give Khandwallas a one-year extension on visa
by: Christopher Onstott Reba Parker (left), who taught Aamir at Jackson Middle School, came out to support Aamir Khandwalla and his family, who may be deported back to Kenya in the next two weeks. Aamir, 17, and his brother Hanzallah, 11, receive medical treatment for a rare genetic disease at Shriners Hospital in Portland, treatment they can not get in Kenya.

A Southwest Portland family facing deportation is getting a one-year reprieve after U.S. immigration officials granted them an extension to their visa.

The Khandwalla family was told during the weekend that its visa would stay in place for another year. That clears the way for Aamir and Hanzallah Khandwalla to continue receiving medical treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children for a rare genetic disease, Desbuquois Syndrome.

The entire family was to be deported Friday, April 1, to Kenya after a deferred-action visa expired.

A story in the March 17 Portland Tribune, and television media coverage during the weekend, highlighted the family's story.

On Thursday, March 24, a couple dozen friends and supporters of Aamir and Hanzallah Khandwalla gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest the boys' possible deportation.

With signs asking that the Khandwalla family be allowed to stay on a medical visa while the two boys receive medical treatment, the friends shouted their support at passing vehicles.


• Read Peter Korn's previous story, "Order to deport puts boys at risk"


The Khandwalla family of Southwest Portland came to the United States from Kenya eight years so Aamir, 17, and Hanzallah, 11, receive treatment for the genetic disease.

Aamir, a Wilson High School student, stands a little more than three feet tall. He has legs and a spine that have suffered curves and dislocations. Standing up straight is difficult, so he uses a wheelchair for all but the simplest of excursions.

Hanzallah was able to walk for the first time only after surgeons at Shriners reconstructed his hips. Eventually he, too, will likely need spinal surgery.

Surgeries at Shriners have helped and future surgeries will probably be required, according to their physicians. But those surgeries are unlikely to happen if the boys are deported at the end of March.

Their family has lived in the United States on a renewable tourist visa. In 2009, the family obtained a deferred action visa, which allowed father Mohammed Khandwalla to get a job working the front desk at a local property management firm. The Khandwallas have been supported for the past eight years by family members in Canada and back in Kenya.

In early March, the family was told by U.S. immigration authorities that they would have to leave the country by the end of the month. The letter offered no explanation for the decision.