(CN) – A Nigerian woman might have grounds for staying in the United States, the 7th Circuit ruled, because the immigration judge did not consider who would care for the woman’s daughters if their father is also deported to Nigeria.
Immigration began removal proceedings in 2005 against Olaronke Olufunmilayo Champion, a Nigerian citizen who entered the United States in 1988. Immigration and Naturalization Services had denied Champion’s citizenship application when she married a U.S. citizen in 1991 because she did not “provide sufficient evidence that an earlier Nigerian marriage had been officially terminated.”
Champion contested removal on the basis of hardship to her minor children if she was deported.
Tomi and Toni Adeyemi, who were 14 and 11 years old at the time, were born in the United States, and Champion argued Nigeria would be very foreign to them.
She also said she feared that her daughters would be subjected to female circumcision if they were brought to Nigeria.
The immigration judge denied Champion’s claim because the girls had other family members, including their father, in America who could care for them.
But the federal appeals court in Chicago said the judge failed to address the “extremely unusual hardship” that would be created if the father of Champion’s children was also deported.
Champion’s Nigerian ex-husband, Yomi Adeyemi, and the former couple’s third child, Tobi, a 20-year-old son born in Nigeria, were both undergoing removal proceedings.
“Here, both the [immigration judge] and the [Board of Immigration Appeals] virtually ignored the possibility that Yomi could also be deported, an oversight that we have found may warrant remand,” Judge Ann Williams wrote for the three-judge panel.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Judge Diane Sykes also signed off on the ruling.
The court dismissed Champion’s claim that she was deprived of due process because the immigration judge did not allow her to make a closing statement and referenced her alleged “visa fraud.”
Williams said a closing statement may have been preferable, but it was not required.
“Champion has not articulated a protected liberty or property interest and, in any event, she was afforded due process,” Williams wrote. “To articulate a due process claim, Champion must demonstrate that she has a protected liberty or property interest under the Fifth Amendment.”