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Supreme Court Issues Pivotal Decision Concerning Denaturalization

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Supreme Court Issues Pivotal Decision Concerning Denaturalization

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On June 22, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued a key decision for those facing denaturalization – it narrowed the grounds on which naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked.  The case centers around Divna Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb born in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.  In 2000, Ms. Maslenjak arrived in the United States as a refugee.  In 2007, her naturalization application was approved.  However, in 2013, a jury found her guilty of making false statements on her application, and she was stripped of her citizenship and deported.

The lower circuit courts had issued split decisions on the issue of whether an offense – such as a misrepresentation – must be material to the decision whether to grant naturalization before citizenship could be stripped.  Before the Supreme Court, Ms. Maslenjak’s lawyers challenged a jury instruction that allowed a conviction even if the false statement at issue did not affect the government’s decision on naturalization.  The government’s lawyers argued that there was no requirement to prove that the lie was material to the naturalization decision, but that it could strip a person’s citizenship for any lie.  Finding in favor of Ms. Maslenjak, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the offense must be materially related to the government’s decision to grant naturalization.  As Chief Justice Roberts states, the decision should help prevent “prosecutorial abuse” for those who make minor mistakes or misrepresentations on their naturalization applications.

If you or someone you know is faced with denaturalization proceedings, do not hesitate to contact Joseph & Hall P.C., PC to schedule a consultation.

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