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¡No Se Deje!
People that are citizens of this country because they were born here cannot be deported. U. S. born citizens do have the right to voluntarily renounce their citizenship but it cannot be taken from them. This is true even if they have been convicted of committing horrendous crimes including multiple murders, rape, massive drug sales, or child abuse offenses. They can be sent to prison for life and can even be executed, but not deported. Naturalized citizens do not have the same absolute immunity from deportation.
Naturalized citizens are immigrants that have become U. S. citizens after first becoming permanent residents and then successfully completing naturalization procedures. U. S. immigration laws provide that people ordered deported are to be sent to “the country from whence they came”. This does not apply for people born here. Although it is extremely difficult and rare to denaturalize someone that has become a naturalized citizen, it has been done. The 2010 census revealed that 6.8 million immigrants became naturalized citizens between the years 2000 and 2010.
Because so many immigrants have succeeded in becoming naturalized citizens in the past 10 years, it is important to know the acts or conduct that could provide a legal basis for taking away naturalized citizenship. If they lose their citizenship, they can be deported. Until recently, the cases where denaturalization was legally permitted were limited to situations in which the immigrant lied in his/her citizenship application. Once the immigrant took the citizenship oath and was sworn in, he/she became a U. S. citizen. The consequences of any criminal convictions after becoming a U. S. citizen could not include denaturalization. That has changed.
A federal appeals court ruled that a naturalized citizen could be denaturalized even though he was arrested, indicted and convicted after he became a naturalized citizen. This is a dramatic and extreme change in the law. Immigration officials successfully argued that because the criminal conduct of the defendant occurred before he became a citizen, and because the criminal conduct constituted a lack of “good moral character”, he was ineligible for citizenship. The judge in that case said “the commission of the crime rather than the conviction for the crime is enough to denaturalize because it negates “good moral character”.
The judge also said that because the defendant did not have good moral character at the time he applied for citizenship, he illegally procured naturalization. In that case, the crime he committed, trafficking in drugs, is a crime which is listed as establishing a lack of good moral character. Not all crimes are on that list. The judge also said that because the defendant procured citizenship illegally, the courts do not have the power to stop the deportation even if it results in extreme hardship on the defendant and his family.
Immigrants should recognize that committing acts that constitute a lack of good moral character before becoming citizens can be used to cancel that citizenship even if it is discovered long after they are sworn in. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.