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Establishing Citizenship Under False Pretenses Can Lead to Immigration and Criminal Consequences

In the past few years, the United States’ immigration policies have been reshaped many times, especially with the recently-adopted zero-tolerance policy. This has led to the curtailment of many protection programs such as those that provided refuge to immigrants who faced dangerous conditions in their country of origin or those that allowed people who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country. The end of these programs has brought about the enforcement of deportation orders and a general fear among immigrants that they will have to go back to their country of origin at any moment.

In order to avoid the enforcement of these policies, immigrants have found ways around deportation by creating new identities to stay in the U.S. with their families. It was discovered around ten years ago that many immigrants were using false identities to receive a green card or citizenship after receiving orders for deportation. In a report from 2016, it was found that over 800 immigrants had used a false identity to become a U.S. citizen, completing the naturalization process under false pretenses.

Immigrants who are naturalized adopt all of the rights of a U.S. citizen, including:

  • Voting
  • Serving jury duty
  • Being elected to a public office other than the United States presidency or vice presidency
  • Traveling abroad with U.S. government protection and passport
  • Providing citizenship to children upon naturalization
  • Helping immediate family members obtain green cards without delay
  • Obtaining security clearance to work at governmental agencies

In the past, the main reason the government has denaturalized citizens was because they posed a threat to national security or had committed a serious war crime — such as former Nazis — and changed their identity on their immigration papers to dodge prosecution. However, the effort has extended in recent years as this issue of fraudulent identities to obtain citizenship has become more prevalent, and the incentive to commit this fraud has increased, as immigration policies and enforcement become more stringent.

Many of the people who become naturalized under false pretenses do so to avoid being separated from their families and the lives they have established in the U.S. Many of them have proven to be law-abiding, successful citizens, building and maintaining respectable businesses, graduating at the top of their classes, filing their taxes, and essentially living the average life of an upstanding American citizen.

Regardless of the fact that many of these immigrants have not caused any disturbances since residing in the country—and have even thrived—many people have a problem with the fact that they broke the law in order to establish themselves in America. L. Francis Cissna, director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, recently announced that a new agency will be created to specifically target those who have obtained a green card or citizenship with a fake identity after receiving an order for deportation. Once these people are identified, the cases would be handed over to the Department of Justice, where the immigrant’s citizenship will be revoked through the civil court system, and they may even face criminal charges for lying on a federal application and misrepresenting their identities. It is believed that the number of those that will be prosecuted and denaturalized will reach several thousand as a result of this agency.

It is important to speak with an attorney if you are facing deportation or if you have received your citizenship status under a false identity. The New York immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP are experienced in representing clients throughout deportation, naturalization, and other immigration proceedings. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (212) 267-2555.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal and Fraudulent Conduct
The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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"Was trying to get Green Card since about 7 years. Finally when I switched to this law firm I was able to get green card very fast with great confidence. Big thanks to Eileen, Kerry, Manjit and Olga." - Dinesh, Kansas

""With an extensive criminal history: over 14 arrests, 2 State prison bids and several felony convictions no lawyer wanted my case in 2010. Thanks to the experts at Bretz & Coven who worked diligently and with precision, today I am a United States citizen." - E.A. Brooklyn, NY

"Absolutely one the best, if not the best immigration attorneys. They helped from start to finish in my green card process. At no point was I blind-sided by anything. Simply amazing!" - Leon B. Jersey City,

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