Judge denies Amish man’s request to stay in country during appeal

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday refused a request to keep an Old Order Amish man in the United States while he challenges an immigration law requiring his photo be taken for entrance into the country.

Daniel Zehr’s attorney said they will immediately appeal Senior U.S. Judge Alan Bloch’s order. As part of that appeal, they will ask the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent Zehr’s removal from the country while the appeal is pending.

But government attorneys refused to guarantee that Zehr might not be removed from the country even before the appeal can be filed, angering Zehr’s attorneys.

“There is no threat or harm to the government. Let the legal issue be resolved” before he’s removed from the country, said Michael Sampson, one of Zehr’s attorneys.

Zehr is a Canadian citizen and a member of the Old Order Amish, a sect that takes literally the Bible’s prohibition of graven images. His wife, who is also Amish, is an American citizen.

In December 2003, Zehr traveled with his wife and daughter from their home in Pennsylvania to Canada to visit his father, who had had a heart attack. In January 2004, the family was returning home when Zehr was stopped at the border and told he could not return because he didn’t have a photo ID.

Zehr’s attorneys argued that because he is currently in the country, albeit on a parole-status, that he has a First Amendment right to freedom of religion that allows him to object to having his photo taken.

But Bloch agree with government attorneys that Zehr has no rights because, although he’s physically in the country, an alien who is on parole is legally considered to be on the other side of the border.

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