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Federal Court Bound by State on Immigration Appeal

Immigration rules take precedence over religious freedom, according to justices in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, who upheld a lower court decision that banned an African divinity student from entry into the US. Ernest Odei was deemed by immigration officials to be holding an improper visa when he arrived from Ghana in 2017. He and the Springfield Christian group that sponsored his visit challenged his subsequent deportation, in part on grounds that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act holds sway over Homeland Security.

Odei spent a week in the McHenry County lockup seeking asylum before opting to return home, only later to file suit with his sponsors against the department in district court. He contended that rescinding the request meant he no longer was subject to the DHS order of removal. However, the three-member panel said that like the judge in the Northern District of Illinois who heard the case, it, too, was powerless to rule under the Immigation and Nationality Act. Judges said the same legislation also precluded them from intervening to protect the Ph.D. candidate’s religious freedom.