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“I’m just trying to fumble through this,” Wethersfield, Conn., attorney Andrew E. Kearns said of the immigration issues involved in orchestrating Manute Bol’s return to the U.S. What Kearns lacks in immigration expertise, he makes up for in friendship. But even that may not be enough for former National Basketball Association player and Kearns’ old pal Manute Bol, who, as of press time, was still in Egypt awaiting permission to return to the U.S., after fleeing his native Sudan on July 12 with Kearns’ help. A real estate and estate planning lawyer at Kearns Law Center, Kearns roomed with Bol’s cousin, Ed Bona, while earning his undergraduate degree at Fordham University in New York City, and remained friends with Bol after the former University of Bridgeport basketball star paid Bona an extended visit, Kearns said. During his 10-year NBA career, the 7-foot-7 Bol earned the distinction as the league’s tallest player ever and broke the rookie record for blocked shots. The son of a Dinka tribal chief, Bol returned to the Sudan in 1997 as a national celebrity. Since then, however, he has fallen on hard times financially and been in the center of ongoing warfare between Arabic Muslims in the northern part of the country, who run Sudan’s government, and African Christian rebels in the south, who are supported by Bol’s Dinka tribe. RICHES TO RAGS Attempts to contact Bol last week were unsuccessful. But Kearns said his friend moved back to his homeland intent on easing the fighting — which has claimed more than two million lives — and possibly being named to a cabinet position in the Sudanese government, neither of which happened. Instead, Sudanese officials confiscated his U.S. green card, according to Kearns. Jobless, Bol, who earned millions of dollars in the NBA and through endorsements, is now broke, having lost his fortune to bad investments and by giving away vast amounts of money to members of his tribe and the Christian rebels whose cause he personally supports. The ruling Arabic Muslims in Sudan, Kearns claimed, had all but put Bol under house arrest, fearing his departure from Sudan would spark negative international press attention on the government. Roughly five months ago, after calling Bol and learning how desperate his predicament had become, Bona, Kearns and another Fordham schoolmate began to plan Bol’s return to the U.S., Kearns said. Through Bona’s brother, who lives in London, Bol’s friends wired him plane tickets. They also sent him cash to give “gratuities” to Khartoum travel officials who agreed not to leak word of Bol’s plans to the government, Kearns said. When Bol showed up for his flight, airport security was caught off guard. After a few tense hours, government leaders, according to Kearns, reluctantly agreed to let Bol, who was accompanied by international news media, board a plane to Cairo. COMPLICATIONS ARISE But “what we thought would be the toughest part of getting him out turned out to be the easiest,” Kearns said. The U.S. Embassy in Egypt, which is between ambassadors, has yet to grant Bol a visa to return to the United States. Because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with the Sudan, Bol can’t obtain a visitor’s visa, Kearns said. An H1-B work visa, he added, also is out of the question. To get a temporary green card to coach basketball in the U.S., Bol would need a college diploma, Kearns said. But he left the University of Bridgeport for the NBA before graduating. So far, Kearns said he has had no luck convincing U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s office to intervene, though Lieberman did come to the aide of another Sudanese native and former University of Connecticut basketball player, Ajou Deng, a few years back. “We don’t have any guardian angel looking over this like [UConn basketball coach] Jim Calhoun,” said Kearns, who initially helped Deng obtain his green card. Kearns, who rarely takes on immigration matters, is seeking an attorney specializing in the field to join the effort. “What I’ve done is very unremarkable,” he insisted. “We’re just hoping it has a happy ending.”

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