The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
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.
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.