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The fate of a Kenyan man whose visa application expired because of bureaucratic inaction depends on which federal institution moves faster — an immigration court or the U.S. Congress. On Tuesday, an immigration judge told Powder Springs, Ga., resident Charles K. Nyaga to leave the country within 60 days, but the judge stayed the order pending the outcome of Nyaga’s appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Nyaga’s lawyer, Charles H. Kuck, said an appeal can take between four and 24 months. “It’s completely unpredictable,” Kuck said. Nyaga and his family can stay in the United States if an equally unpredictable group — the Senate, the House of Representatives and President Bush — acts before the appeals board issues what is expected to be a denial of Nyaga’s appeal. Sen. C. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., last month introduced a bill that would change the law that doomed Nyaga’s 1998 application. The change would allow immigration officials to reconsider some expired bids. Chambliss, who chairs the immigration subcommittee, persuaded the ranking Democrat on the panel, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., to co-sponsor the bill, showing that Nyaga’s plight appeals to lawmakers who have been bitterly divided on some of Bush’s judicial nominations. Rep. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, in whose district Nyaga lives, will support the bill in the House, said an Isakson spokeswoman. “I am very encouraged,” said Kuck, who recently took Nyaga along on a lobbying trip to Capitol Hill. Nyaga, who works in a hotel and is in theology school, sounded cautiously optimistic: “The only thing is just to wait. That’s all we can do now.” Last year, Nyaga had apparently run out of legal options when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal of a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. By a 2-1 vote, the 11th Circuit said Nyaga’s visa application expired on Sept. 30, 1998. The panel acknowledged that Nyaga’s application had expired through no fault of his own — immigration authorities simply allowed it to languish — but said the law didn’t allow the court to give him any relief. The 11th Circuit decision had reversed a ruling by Chief Judge Orinda D. Evans of the U.S. District Court in Atlanta. Evans, saying she would not reward “gross inaction” by the government, had ordered immigration authorities to process Nyaga’s application.

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