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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ms. Oyekunle, a permanent resident seeking asylum in the United States to avoid undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria, was denied a fair hearing by the immigration judge. The court said that the immigration judge who denied Ms. Oyekunle's case relied too heavily on country reports from the U.S. State Department.
Ms. Oyekunle fled Nigeria when she was 39 years old because her husband's family threatened to circumcise her following the birth of the couple's first son. The immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals originally denied Ms. Oyekunle's asylum claim, saying that State Department country reports only provided evidence of FGM practice against girls.
"The Board [of Immigration Appeals] remarked that the country report does not support the petitioner's claim of a well-founded fear of persecution, but what the Board should have said was that the report has little if any bearing on the case," wrote Judge Richard Posner.
The decision offers some protection for other adult women who face deportation into situations where they will be forced to suffer FGM. The decision is one in a series of decisions from the federal court criticizing the Board of Immigration Appeals since a 2003 reorganization by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.