What is Denaturalization?
Denaturalization is a legal process by which citizenship can be revoked. Denaturalization can occur through court or administrative proceedings or as a result of a criminal conviction for knowingly procuring naturalization by fraud. A citizen born in the U.S. can’t be denaturalized; only those who obtained their citizenship through naturalization can be denaturalized. While denaturalization used to be reserved for Nazis and terrorists, there has been a recent and significant increase in the number of denaturalization cases.
What Causes Denaturalization?
There are several grounds on which the government can move to denaturalize a naturalized U.S. citizen:
- Membership in Certain Organizations, including subversive, communist, or anarchist organizations within 5 years of naturalization.
- Concealment of Material Evidence or Willful Misrepresentation, i.e. lying during the naturalization process. Denaturalization based on a material misrepresentation requires deliberate deceit about a material fact. The citizen must have procured citizenship as a result of this misrepresentation or concealment.
- Illegal Procurement is the basis used to denaturalize individuals who have obtained citizenship illegally. If, for instance, a person’s underlying lawful permanent resident status is invalid because they falsified a claim for asylum or they committed marriage fraud as a means of obtaining a green card, then the government could find the naturalized citizen has illegally procured citizenship. The government has also used this basis to denaturalize Nazi concentration camp guards and other persecutors. The illegal procurement ground has been extended to encompass illegal acts reflecting on a person’s good moral character that occurred before naturalization but for which the person was not arrested, charged or convicted until after he or she became a citizen.
- Automatic Denaturalization. A criminal conviction for knowingly procuring naturalization in violation of law is a ground for denaturalization.
- Subversive Activities. Refusing to testify before a congressional committee within 10 years of naturalization may result in denaturalization.
- Military Service Denaturalization. Naturalization may be revoked if the person is dishonorably discharged from the military before serving honorably for 5 years. This ground only applies to citizenship granted after November. 24, 2003.
Denaturalization Is A Common Threat Under Trump
Denaturalization has historically been a rare process usually only brought against war criminals and other extreme cases. From 1990 to 2017, the Justice Department has filed an average of 11 denaturalization cases per year. But the Trump Administration has recently created Operation Janus, a task force dedicated to finding and denaturalizing citizens who may have been ineligible for naturalization.
Operation Janus is a response to a report from the Office of the Inspector General indicating USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records weren’t available.
The government has launched an office in Los Angeles staffed with attorneys who will focus on denaturalization cases.
Criminal vs. Civil Denaturalization
Denaturalized may be a criminal or civil process. Criminal denaturalization requires that a person knowingly procured citizenship illegally. If convicted, the person automatically loses his or her citizenship. The judge will not take into account any other factors, such as whether the citizen has U.S. children in determining whether to revoke the person’s citizenship. The penalty associated with criminal denaturalization can be up to 25 years in prison if the court finds the person procured citizenship illegally in order to facilitate terrorism.
Civil denaturalization can occur for most of the reasons given above. Even civil denaturalization can come with jail time. But the more pressing issue is usually the risk of deportation after denaturalization.
The statute of limitations for criminal denaturalization is 10 years, but there is no statute of limitations for civil denaturalization, which means the government could move to denaturalize you at any point.
How to Fight Denaturalization
If you or a loved are facing denaturalization, we can help defend you.
The government carries a very high burden of proof in denaturalization cases, and our denaturalization lawyers can make sure the court holds the government to this high standard of proof. Citizenship in civil proceedings should only be taken away where there is clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that citizenship was illegally obtained. In criminal cases of naturalization fraud, the government must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our experienced immigration attorneys will work with you to go over every piece of your immigration history and develop the best defense against denaturalization.
What Happens After Denaturalization?
If you lose your denaturalization case and a decision to revoke your citizenship becomes final, you’ll revert back to green card or lawful permanent resident status.
The likely next step is that the government will place you in removal (deportation) proceedings because the grounds for denaturalization are probably also grounds for removal or deportation from the U.S. That’s why it’s so important to fight back against denaturalization and to formulate a strategy for protect both your citizenship and your green card.
How Denaturalization Could Impact Your Family
If you were born in the United States, you’re not at risk of losing your citizenship. But all family members who gained citizenship through the denaturalized person are at risk of losing their citizenship. For example: Mom naturalizes and becomes a US citizen. She then petitions Husband/Dad and their 2 children born abroad. Dad and both children become citizens based on petitions filed by Mom. If Mom is denaturalized, then Dad and the 2 children risk losing their citizenship. (But if Mom and Dad have a 3rd child born in the United States, the 3rd child born in the United States does not risk losing her citizenship if Mom is denaturalized).
Contact Our Los Angeles Denaturalization Attorney Today
Denaturalization poses a serious threat to you and your family. If you’re facing denaturalization or you’re worried about this, contact the Los Angeles denaturalization lawyers at Goldstein Immigration Lawyers immediately.
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