Ejected by U.S., Amish man back in Canada

Man refused picture I.D. as against his religion

PITTSBURGH — An Amish man who had been living in Pennsylvania is back in Canada while he continues challenging a law requiring his photo be taken for legal residence in the United States.

Daniel Zehr, 29, of Kitchener, Ont., returned Saturday after a judge last week refused to allow him to stay in the country during his challenge.

Besides continuing with the legal case, Zehr’s attorney said he will also pursue a private bill in Congress – legislation specific to Zehr’s case which could exempt the photo requirement or grant him citizenship outright.

While private bills can deal with anything, they often concern immigration, said Mark Knapp, Zehr’s attorney.

Zehr is a Canadian citizen and a member an Old Order Amish sect that takes literally the Bible’s prohibition of graven images, which is why he has refused to consent to an immigration photo. Zehr had entered the United States temporarily as a nonimmigrant visitor to live with his wife in Licking Township, Clarion County, about 100 kilometres northeast of Pittsburgh. His wife is a lifelong U.S. resident. They married in June 2001.

In December, Zehr ran afoul of immigration authorities when he travelled with his wife and daughter to Canada to visit his ailing father. In January 2004, the family was returning home when Zehr was stopped at the border and told that he had “self-deported” and couldn’t return because he did not have a photo ID.

On Thursday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned away an emergency appeal seeking to prevent Zehr’s removal from the country. He returned Saturday to Canada with his wife and daughter, Knapp said.

Zehr was then refused re-entry to the United States, Knapp said, although he wasn’t told why. “I was trying to bring him back simply as a visitor,” he said.

“It was quite disconcerting, to say the least, as an American citizen,” Knapp said.

Federal prosecutors say the photo is crucial to Department of Homeland Security officials who do background checks of anyone seeking alien status or citizenship.

Zehr’s attorneys said he was willing to be fingerprinted – and that fingerprints are a better way to confirm a person’s identity – but prosecutors said a photo is necessary.

Knapp said the challenge applies only to Zehr and is limited to one border point – the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y.

“We recognize the government’s interest in protecting the borders,” Knapp said.

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