This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq., Doran Shemin, Esq. and Laura Lorenzo, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.
U.S. citizenship is the ultimate goal for most of our clients. It can take decades to obtain, but it can be lost in an afternoon appointment before a single consular officer. How that is done — and why — is the subject of this week’s column.
First, a key distinction: People who have green cards (“lawful permanent residents”) can lose their permanent residency without their consent; United States citizens cannot lose their citizenship, other than in extremely rare cases, without affirmatively applying for denaturalization. You can lose your green card by spending too much time abroad or by stealing a candy bar; a United States citizen can live abroad for decades and commit every crime in Title 18 of the United States Code without losing citizenship. Under the 14th Amendment as interpreted in Afroyim v. Rusk, Congress cannot revoke the citizenship of an individual citizen or pass a law depriving an entire class of citizens of their privileges.
So, citizenship is difficult to lose. How might you manage it? The most common way is to affirmatively renounce your citizenship in an interview before a U.S. consular officer abroad. Once renounced, the expatriate is in the same position as a foreigner who never held U.S. citizenship. He must obtain a visa if he ever wants to travel to the United States.
There are many legitimate reasons to relinquish United States citizenship. Tina Turner, for example, decided that she wanted to live in Switzerland with her husband for the rest of her life because, to paraphrase only lightly, Switzerland is fantastic. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was, to paraphrase not at all, angry about an “absolutely outrageous” tax bill on the sale of London property and, one imagines, embarrassed to be both a U.S. citizen and an ambitious striver in Whitehall. Eduardo Saverin did not want to share his Facebook bajillions with the likes of you.
Those are rather boring cases, though. For pure appeal, we like the case of William Ash, a Texan and farmworker who was righteously furious about U.S. neutrality at the outset of World War II and did something about it — he went to England and joined the RAF. He was shot down, captured, imprisoned at Stalag Luft III and attempted escape repeatedly. (Steve McQueen, in “The Great Escape,” portrays a fictionalized version of William Ash’s adventures.)
After demobilization, Ash tried to return to the U.S. only to find that he had been denaturalized simply for joining the British armed forces. Undeterred, he studied at Balliol College, Oxford. He attempted to join the British Communist party but was rejected for being too quirky and individualistic. He wrote 12 novels and seven works of nonfiction. He died at 96 — a British citizen to the end.
The second most common way to lose your U.S. citizenship is a judicial denaturalization. This deeply unpleasant process is only applied to naturalized citizens and is never applied to natural-born citizens of the United States.
Let us imagine that, while a lawful permanent resident, you work as a home health aide. While working as a home health aide, you apply for United States citizenship; you duly receive it and become a U.S. citizen. Meanwhile, the company you work for has been committing large-scale Medicaid fraud. For your part in the scheme, you are sentenced to one year of community supervision and a small fine. Your arrest, trial, guilty plea and sentence all happen after you became an American citizen.
One day, after you’ve finished your community supervision and paid a fine, you receive a notice stating that the United States has filed a civil suit against you in federal court with the objective of stripping you of U.S. citizenship. “How can they do that?” you might ask. Well, Statutes of Liberty is here to remind you of one very odd question from your naturalization application:
“Have you EVER committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were NOT arrested?”
By answering that question “No,” as you no doubt did, you gave the government an avenue to argue that you obtained your U.S. citizenship by material misrepresentation. At the time you answered that question, recall, you had a relatively minor part in a Medicaid fraud scheme, to which you pled guilty. You therefore have duly confessed that you had committed a crime for which you were not arrested, and, despite that fact, answered “No.” Denaturalization proceedings follow. After you are denaturalized, the government can subsequently move to strip you of your lawful permanent residency and deport you.
That case posture is not hypothetical.
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and we will do our best to respond.
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The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village