Every year, thousands of US green card holders proudly pledge allegiance to the United States of America by becoming United States citizens.   Most of them had to wait a full five years before they could apply for citizenship. A choice they made happily because, as imperfect as the US may be, it is by far the best country in the world. Until this week, the United States government could strip an immigrant of US Citizenship for minor infractions such as inconsequential lies during the application process that could deprive an individual of his or her American nationality. The case of United States v. Divna Maslenjak is of great importance to our readers, many of them are nationalize US citizens.
Divna Masljenjak was a Bosnian Serb refugee who immigrated to the United States in June 2000. She and her husband were first awarded green cards. Five years later, she applied for and was granted US citizenship.  Apparently, it was later revealed that during the naturalization process which includes the application and interview, she lied by omission. According to the government, she covered up the fact that her husband served in the Bosnian army unit that massacred nearly ten thousand Bosnian Muslim civilians at Srebrenica between 1995 and 1996.
Based on that fact, the government brought a criminal case against her seeking to revoke her citizenship arguing that accurate information regarding her husband’s involvement in the Bosnian Muslim massacre would have adversely affected the decision to grant her US citizenship.  During her criminal trial for procuring US citizenship illegally (that was the charge) the trial judge instructed the jury that no matter how small and insignificant the lie, whether such lie or omission would have influenced the decision to grant her citizenship, the jury must find her guilty. She was convicted of illegally procuring US citizenship. Her citizenship was revoked, and she and her husband were promptly deported back to Serbia.
While living in Serbia, her American lawyers appealed her conviction to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Court upheld her conviction.  However, the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals conflicted with other Federal Appeals Courts in the First, Fourth and Ninth Circuits which held that a lie or a challenged misrepresentation during the application or interview process for US citizenship must be relevant and material in the naturalization process. In effect, these courts ruled that lies or misrepresentations must be critical to the decision.
The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and agreed to hear the case because, under the government’s theory, any person who lied about running a red light, or ever having received a moving violation ticket could potentially lose his/her US citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Ms. Maslenjak and against the government adopting the reasoning of the First, Fourth and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, held that a jury must find that “a false statement sufficiently altered those processes as to have influenced the award of citizenship.”
According to Christopher Landau, the attorney who argued Ms. Malenjak’s case before the Supreme Court, Ms. Malenjak, 55 years old and her husband are looking forward to reclaiming her US Citizenship and return to the United States.  This decision provides greater security to many Nationalize Americans who could rest in peace knowing that their US citizenships cannot be stripped from them except for reasons if known at the time would have adversely affected the decision to grant them citizenship in the first place.
Omega Staff Writers
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