The rules of claiming citizenship, if one is not born in the United States, are very complex for most people. It does sometimes lead to situations where one becomes confused, even about their own immigration status. It also can lead to unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of inefficient regulations. If you or a loved one have intentionally or unintentionally claimed U.S. citizenship when you have not been entitled to do so, it may carry serious consequences for you or even for your family.
People unintentionally claiming U.S. citizenship happens far more often than most people think. It is a common mistake among young people, who are often taken to the U.S. from their home country when they are too young to remember or be aware of immigration regulations. Their parents may also have taken steps to get them a Social Security (SS) card or to otherwise shore up the idea that they are citizens, thinking it will make their lives easier. When their Social Security card turns out to be invalid, it can be a very rude awakening - though the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that if someone does not knowingly steal another’s SS number, it is not a crime (but still an immigration violation).
The most common situation in which people’s lack of claim to citizenship is exposed is in the voting booth. A young person may attempt to vote, as they believe is their civic duty, only to discover their Social Security card is invalid. Alternatively, election volunteers may tell those on other immigration statuses, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs, or “green card” holders) that they are able to vote. This is done sometimes maliciously, but more often it is the product of simple misinformation or lack of research on the part of the volunteer. Either way, it leads to problems for the immigrant - voting is reserved only for citizens, and trying to cast a vote when unable to is seen as wrongfully claiming citizenship by most courts.
If someone unintentionally claims U.S. citizenship, they are often dealt with in a lenient manner, especially if they were brought to the country as a child. However, deliberate false claims to citizenship are handled far differently. Many people do attempt to falsely claim U.S. citizenship each year, either because they feel they have no choice, they underestimate the vigilance of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), or because they have consciously pursued means to achieve the veneer of citizenship, such as stealing a citizen’s Social Security number or affirmatively checking the “citizen” box on an I-9 form.
Being caught deliberately claiming U.S. citizenship can be a death knell to any legitimate plans to immigrate, as it bars nearly all forms of relief from removal. Sometimes the issue of the immigrant’s good moral character (or lack thereof) is reached, but case law holds that it is possible to simply infer bad moral character from the false claim itself - it is, after all, a fraudulent act designed to claim a benefit unjustly.
Contact An Experienced Immigration Attorney
If you have made the mistake of claiming to be a citizen when you are not, a knowledgeable attorney may be the only thing that can keep you from being declared permanently barred from the United States. The skilled Chicagoland deportation defense attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help guide you through what can be a scary and difficult process. Contact us today via phone or website to schedule a free initial consultation.
Sources: http://nbcnews.com/business/consumer/courts-using-anothers-ssn-not-crime-f6C10406382 http://asianjournal.com/immigration/the-immigration-effect-of-false-claims-to-us-citizenship/ https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3623.pdf
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