Supreme Court Makes It Unconstitutional to Strip Away Citizenship

Supreme Court Makes It Unconstitutional to Strip Away Citizenship

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a naturalized U.S. citizen should not have been stripped of her citizenship for the sole reason that she liked to U.S. officials.1 This decision overturned the lower court’s decision.2 The plaintiff, an ethnic Serb who entered the U.S. as a refugee, had argued that false answers she gave to immigration officials were immaterial to citizenship.3

Divna Maslenjak entered the U.S. in 2000 as a refugee, along with her husband and their two children.4 She became a naturalized citizen in 2007, but around the same time she lied to U.S. officials when she said her husband had not participated in Bosnia’s civil war. He served in a brigade that was involved in the notorious Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims in 1995.5

The justices ruled 9-0 that a naturalized American citizen cannot be stripped of citizenship if a lie or omission on immigration forms was irrelevant to the government’s original decision to grant entry into the United States.6 They rejected the Trump administration’s stance that the government should be able to revoke citizenship of people for even minor misstatements in the citizenship application process.7

“We hold that the government must establish that an illegal act by the defendant played some role in her acquisition of citizenship,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court.8 “We have never read a statute to strip citizenship from someone who met the legal criteria for acquiring it. We will not start now,” Kagan added.9


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