A deeply jarring decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals came out late last month pertaining to the issue of false claims to US Citizenship. Under Section 237(a)(3)(D)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, "an alien who falsely represents, or has falsely represented himself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act (including section 274A) or any Federal or State law is deportable." What makes this case, Matter of Zhang, 27 I & N Dec. 569 (BIA 2019), interesting is that the Board held that a false claim need not necessarily be made knowingly in order to render an individual deportable. Here, Mr. Zhang purchased a naturalization certificate without having undergone the examination, and it was questionable as to whether he knowingly or unknowingly tried to circumvent the process. On appeal, Mr. Zhang maintained that he in good faith believed that he was a US citizen and argued that the government bore the burden of demonstrating that he made the false claim willfully or knowingly.
Green Card holders interested in becoming United States Citizens should be aware that USCIS is planning on revising the civics test as part of a new decennial review and revision process. Under this plan, the citizenship test will be reviewed every ten years and if necessary, revised to ensure accuracy, timeliness, as well integrity. The test was last revised in 2009.
According to very reputable sources, it appears that the Administration will soon be terminating humanitarian policies intended for the military. The two most prominent programs that are endangered are deferred action and parole-in-place ("PIP" for short). The second one, especially, has been of enormous utility to family members of the military who would not otherwise be eligible to adjust their status in the United States. For more information on parole-in-place, read our previous entry here. Although USCIS has yet to officially confirm anything, those intending on filing for deferred action or parole-in-place would be well advised to do so within the next few weeks before the new hardline policy becomes effective. Should these programs be terminated, undocumented and out-of-status family members of active and veteran military members will presumably not be given any special consideration, and like those similarly situated, be vulnerable to removal from the US. The negative effects of dismantling parole-in-place should be obvious: morale and the ability to focus on one's duties may be compromised if armed force members serving our country are now preoccupied with and worried about family members who do not have status.
At the AILA Annual Conference this past month, there was talk amongst attorneys of USCIS's latest plans to "realign" operations to purportedly enhance efficiency by redistributing the workload. This was also confirmed by a USCIS official quite recently, and we have actually seen some parts of it implemented already. Under this new operational protocol, scheduled to go into effect officially this October, the 24 District Offices throughout the United States will be consolidated into 16 Districts. As a consequence, each District Office will serve more states. However, locale and proximity do not apparently figure to be dispositive factors in determining which office serves which states. For example, it seems that the Brooklyn Office will now be subsumed by the Newark District Office. The Boston Office will reportedly merge with the Buffalo Office, and cases originally scheduled for adjudication at the Philadelphia Office will supposedly now go to the Cleveland Field Office.
Individuals with problematic immigration cases may already be aware of the three and ten-years bars, which typically apply after a person has accrued the requisite "unlawful presence" and then departed the United States. If a person is deemed to have been unlawfully present for 180 days or more, but less than one year, and then left the country, he/she will face the three-year bar. If a person has one year or more of unlawful presence, and then departed the country, he/she will be barred for ten years. What is less known, and perhaps more insidious, is something called "the five-year bar," which can prove even more formidable than the unlawful presence bar.