Citizenship

United States v. Eguilos and Denaturalization

George H.W. Bush appointee denounces second-class citizenship, cites to my work with Cassandra Robertson

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Judge William Shubb, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush, does not mince words in his decision concerning the civil denaturalization process that the government initiated against Christian Oribello Eguilos. The opinion, available at 2019 WL 1643234, begins with a bang:

This court must once again dispel the commonly held misconception that all American citizens are afforded the same rights of citizenship. See United States v. Dang, No. 2:01-cv-1514 WBS DAD, 2004 WL 2731911, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2004). Through the denaturalization process, Congress has created two distinct classes of American citizens. The first class of citizens includes those whose mothers happened to be physically present in the United States, whether legally or illegally, at the moment they were born, and those whose parents were American citizens. See 8 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq. These citizens are forever secure in their citizenship. It can never be taken from them, no matter what they may have done in the past or what they may do in the future.

The second class of citizens, and the focus of this case, consists of those individuals who acquire their citizenship through naturalization. See 8 U.S.C. § 1421 et seq. To even qualify for naturalization, an individual must meet a long list of criteria. They must wait at least five years after establishing permanent residency, pass a citizenship test, truthfully answer questions posed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), be a person of good moral character, and swear allegiance to the Constitution. These requirements, unique to those applying for naturalization, demonstrate only the beginning of the substantial burdens this country places on these second-class citizens.

Once a naturalized citizen completes this arduous process, their American citizenship still hangs in the balance, at the mercy of government officials.

Judge Shubb goes on to cite Cassandra Robertson's and my forthcoming work:

And once the government starts the denaturalization process, these civil proceedings are replete with procedural shortcomings given the important right at stake. See Cassandra Robertson & Irina Manta, (Un)Civil Denaturalization, 94 N.Y.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2019) (manuscript at 49-54), https://bit.ly/2uMeBow (cataloguing the due process deficiencies of civil denaturalization). Defendants often do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney nor the money to hire one. It is within this unfortunate backdrop that this matter comes before the court as the defendant in this case, Christian Oribello Eguilos, is part of this second class of American citizens.

Eguilos's case concerns whether the government can denaturalize him for committing (allegedly both undisclosed and concealed) sexual abuse against minors–for which he later entered a no contest plea–before being naturalized. Judge Shubb denied most of the counts in the defendant's motion to dismiss, but one can see in the opinion his honest struggle to follow the law while condemning the unequal and insidious treatment of naturalized citizens.

Our beliefs in due process and its protections are virtually always tested the most when dealing with unsavory individuals such as Eguilos appears to be. The Constitution does not cease to apply, however, because someone is immoral or a criminal; indeed, that is usually when its applicability becomes relevant at all.

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  1. I submit there is a substantive difference if the naturalized citizen is a dual citizen of another country. Dual citizenship shouldn’t even exist (when you are naturalized you swear an oath that you are giving up alleigance to any foreign nation), but it does, and that also creates another class of citizenship. Playing devil’s advocate here a bit – If a dual citizen commits a serious crime in the United States, one can argue that demonstrates a disregard for the US or it’s laws, and they should return to their other country of citizenship.

    1. A bit of a tangent but why do you think it appropriate to require an oath that you are “giving up allegiance to any foreign nation” when citizens-by-birth must make no such oath? Are you unaware of the many, many citizens-by-birth who nevertheless retain strong allegiances to their countries of ethnic origin?

      To be clear, “giving up allegiance” is a far broader standard than “renouncing citizenship”.

      1. Dual citizenship by birth is an inevitability, given different rules of citizenship in different countries and binational relationships.

        But there’s no particular reason to permit an applicant for naturalization to maintain any other allegiances. Nothing wrong with holding other allegiances, but the US doesn’t have to allow you to become a citizen either if you insist on doing it.

        1. But there’s no particular reason to permit an applicant for naturalization to maintain any other allegiances. Nothing wrong with holding other allegiances, but the US doesn’t have to allow you to become a citizen either if you insist on doing it.

          It’s not necessarily up to you. Other countries, not you, decide whether you are or remain a citizen of those countries.

          (For an example from the other perspective: if you, an American, become a naturalized citizen of some other country, the U.S. deems you to still be a citizen of the U.S.)

    2. Technically nearly all naturalized citizens are dual citizens.

      “when you are naturalized you swear an oath that you are giving up alleigance to any foreign nation”

      True, but that oath which includes renouncing foreign citizenship is legally meaningless in the country in which their prior citizenship exists. And the oath makes no requirement to take affirmative steps to effectively renounce prior citizenship, which is totally dependent on the law of the country in which that prior citizenship exists.

      In point of fact, many countries (The US included) make it extremely difficult if not impossible to renounce one’s citizenship with any true legal effect.

      1. Well, the US doesn’t have to (and generally won’t) recognize your foreign “citizenship”, and may even seek to denaturalize you or sanction you if you insist on claiming it post-naturalization without renouncing US citizenship (by, for instance, serving in a foreign armed forces or a foreign government).

        The fact, therefore, that some other country still considers you a citizen does not make you a “dual” citizen as far as this country is concerned.

        1. The fact, therefore, that some other country still considers you a citizen does not make you a “dual” citizen as far as this country is concerned.

          Almost no countries recognize dual citizenship. If you are a citizen of X and Y, country X will treat you as a citizen of X for all purposes, and country Y will treat you as a citizen of Y for all purposes.

  2. I think that Reason should do something about these “trackback” comments. Aside from the fact that they’re not actually comments as such, they’re a notorious route for spam to sneak in, and in extreme cases, can seriously clutter a comment thread even if they represent real trackbacks.

    If they’re really desired, perhaps they can be segregated from the real comments?

  3. Isn’t the general rule that, once naturalized, you’ll only lose your citizenship if evidence surfaces that the naturalization was based on some fraud? This is Eguilos’s case; He’s alleged to have obtained citizenship under false pretenses.

    We can imagine a ‘natural born’ citizen, ‘American’ parents, ‘born’ in an American hospital. As secure in their citizenship as can be.

    And then it is discovered that they were actually born of non-Americans, somewhere else, and are benefiting from some elaborate hoax. In this scenario, would their citizenship be any more secure than Eguilos’s?

    Are we going to argue that, once somebody is declared a citizen on some basis, the discovery that this basis is fraudulent must be irrelevant? They get to keep the ill gotten status?

    1. Nobody chooses their parents. If someone spends their first 18 years thinking they are citizens at birth, and all contacts with government concur with the same belief, it would be a harsh sentence to strip this individual innocent of any personal wrongdoing of their citizenship.
      Indeed, their punishment will still be harsh if their parents get the boot.

  4. Boo hoo. Poor little judgie.

    Congress has the power in this area, not him and he doesn’t like it. Oh well, maybe he should just retire and his little feelings won’t be hurt.

  5. Stop naturalizing criminal and genetically defective mestizos and this situation won’t arise again.

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