Court Halts Removal of Convict to South Sudan

     CHICAGO (CN) – In one of the first deportation proceedings involving someone from the newly founded state of South Sudan, the 7th Circuit vacated removal and ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to devise a protocol for dealing with future deportations involving that country.
     South Sudan declared independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, and was immediately recognized by the United States. The move was optimistically hailed by many as a closing chapter to decades of genocide and violence in the area.
     Zakaria Bullen Wani Site certainly was relieved. Born in Juba, a former Sudanese city and now the capital of South Sudan, Wani Site and his family faced constant persecution under Shari’a law, which the Sudanese government had imposed on the entire country since 1983.
     Wani Site’s father and uncle were arrested for cooperating with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and are presumed dead. His mother soon left the country to find work, and Wani Site dropped out of school to avoid fighting for a military that, in his view, was killing his own people.
     To avoid persecution, Wani Site and his family fled to Egypt and were later admitted to the United States as refugees.
     Wani Site became a permanent resident in 2007 but was subject to removal proceedings when he was convicted of aggravated sexual abuse a year later.
     Claiming that the Sudanese government will detain and torture him upon arrival as a failed asylum-seeker and draft-dodger, Wani Site sought cancellation of removal under the Convention Against Torture. His petition was denied by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which found that Wani Site failed to prove that he would face torture upon his return.
     Exactly one month after the 7th Circuit heard oral arguments on the case, South Sudan declared independence, temporarily derailing the proceedings.
     Finding several administrative errors, some related to the emergence of the new county, the 7th Circuit vacated the removal order.
     “The independence of South Sudan combined with the government’s representation to this court that it has no intention of removing Wani Site to Sudan persuades us that the board needs to take another look at this matter in light of the profoundly changed political situation,” Judge Diane Wood wrote for the court.
     “The government also asserted at oral argument that once South Sudan declared its independence, it may remove him to that country,” the ruling states. “We recognize that the government retains broad discretion to designate a country of removal for Wani Site. … But it must exercise that authority in the appropriate way, not for the first time in the middle of a petition for review.”

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