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Citizenship is the ultimate goal of most legal permanent residents. Citizenship provides great benefits including the right to vote, own a firearm, and protection from deportation.
However, citizenship can be taken away if it was entered into by fraudulent means or if an individual makes a false claim to U.S. citizenship. In fact, the U.S. government has taken more of an aggressive approach towards denaturalization and prosecuting false claims to citizenship than ever before. On June 13, 2018, the Trump Administration announced that it was creating a task force whose only responsibility would be to investigate citizenship fraud.
Citizenship Fraud vs. False Claims to Citizenship
A false claim to citizenship does not necessarily involve an individual who is applying for citizenship. An individual who makes a false claim to citizenship could represent himself as a citizen for the purposes of voting, working, applying for a loan application, or applying for a U.S. passport.
In contrast, citizenship fraud involves someone who knowingly procures or attempts to procure citizenship through fraudulent means. For example, an individual could use a false name, false alien registration number, fail to disclose a prior criminal conviction, fail to disclose a prior misrepresentation, or fail to disclose a prior order of removal. Any of these omissions could be used by the government to argue that the individual procured or attempted to procure citizenship by fraud.
False claims to citizenship is a federal criminal charge with sanctions including incarceration, probation, fines, and mandatory immigration consequences. A false claim to citizenship is one of the most serious immigration violations as it imposes a mandatory permanent bar on entering the United States and there are no available waivers.
Elements of False Claims to Citizenship
Citizenship fraud is commonly referred to as “False Claims to Citizenship” or “False Impersonation of a Citizen.” The crime can be federally prosecuted under either 18 U.S.C. 911 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1015) or 18 U.S.C. 1015 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1015).
To prove the crime of citizenship fraud, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Was an alien at the time of the alleged incident;
- Falsely claimed to be a united states citizen, and;
- Knowingly and willingly made the false claim.
An “alien” is a person who isn’t a citizen of the United States. A citizen of the United States is someone born in the United States or granted citizenship through naturalization. A person born outside the United States is a citizen if both parents were United States citizens and one of them had a residence in the United States before the birth.
Elements of Citizenship Fraud
To prove the crime of citizenship fraud, the government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant knowingly procured or attempted to procure, contrary to law, the naturalization of any person or documentary or other evidence of naturalization or of citizenship; or
The defendant, whether for himself or another person not entitled thereto, knowingly issues, procures, or obtains or applies for or otherwise attempts to procure or obtain naturalization or citizenship or a declaration of intention to become a citizen, or a certificate of arrival or any certificate or evidence of nationalization or citizenship, documentary or otherwise, or duplicates or copies of any of the documents previously described.
Criminal Penalties for Citizenship Fraud & False Claims to Citizenship
Citizenship fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1425 carries a maximum sentence of:
- 25 years if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism
- 20 years if the offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime
- 10-15 years for a first or second offense
Unlawful claims to citizenship under 18 U.S.C. 911 carries a maximum sentence of three years. Unlawful claims to citizenship under 18 U.S.C. 1015 carries a maximum sentence of five years. Any sentence may also include fines, probation, and other sanctions as required by law.
Immigration Penalties for Citizenship Fraud
Under INA 237, any alien that falsely represents or has falsely represented, himself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under Federal or State law is deportable. In addition, the alien will receive a permanent bar from entering the United States and will not be eligible for a waiver typically available for other types of misrepresentation cases.
Defenses to Citizenship Fraud and False Claims to Citizenship
You may be entitled to a legal defense to the charges of citizenship fraud or false claims to citizenship. As stated previously, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly engaged in fraud in your citizenship application or knowingly made a false claim to citizenship.
The law specifically lists a defense to both of these crimes. If you made a false claim for citizenship but reasonably believed that you were a U.S. citizen, then you may have a legal defense to the crime. This situation commonly arises when an individual believes incorrectly that they acquired derivative citizenship. Derivative citizenship is acquired in certain situations by law without the need for the individual to file a formal application.
For more information on derivative citizenship, visit USCIS’s website at https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/citizenship-through-parents.
Reach Out to Hubbs Law Firm Today for Sound Legal Representation
If you or anyone you know has been contacted by an immigration agency about an allegation of a false claim to citizenship, give our office a call. In addition, if you know of anyone arrested for citizenship fraud, contact our office, as serious penalties could be involved.
You need attorneys that are experienced in both criminal and immigration law to handle your case. At Hubbs Law Firm, your first consultation is always free. Our Miami citizenship fraud attorneys will discuss both the criminal and immigration aspects of your case with you and your family member.
Hubbs Law Firm represents clients in Miami and throughout Miami-Dade County, including Hialeah, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, South and North Miami, Homestead, Kendall, and anywhere else in the Miami area.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: https://www.ice.gov/detention-facility/krome-service-processing-center – Find information on Krome’s facility, contact information, visiting hours, bond information, and more.
- U.S. Department of Justice https://www.justice.gov/eoir/miami-krome-immigration-court – Find information on immigration court at Krome Detention Center.
- U.S. Department of Justice https://www.justice.gov/eoir/miami-immigration-court – Find information on immigration court at the Miami Immigration Court at 333 South Miami Avenue in Miami, FL.
- Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov – Find information on the Department of Homeland Security, including the location of someone in ICE custody, updates on DHS and ICE immigration policies, and locations for DHS offices of the Chief Counsel.
- Customs and Border Protection https://www.cbp.gov – Find information on the United States Customs and Border Protection including regulations for admissions into the United States, importing/exporting goods, and obtaining an individual’s travel history.
Attorneys E.J. & Erika Hubbs
As professional Miami criminal defense attorneys, we take every case personally give every client the deliberate care it deserves. Our clients become part of our family and we fight relentlessly for their rights. Read more about us to find out how we can help you.
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