The TRACs in the Snow Almost Never Lead to Denaturalization

By Dan Cadman on July 8, 2014

As is its wont, Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has published another of those short but interesting reports that it produces from time to time.

This one, "Recent Trends in Naturalization Application Lawsuits", provides statistical data relating to lawsuits filed in United States district courts from federal fiscal year (FFY) 2008 through 2014 to date (meaning the first eight months of this FFY).

TRAC notes that the lion's share of lawsuits are filed by aliens denied naturalization by the government for one statutorily articulated reason or another.

This is not surprising. Cynical immigration officers used to (and may still) say that "no case is over until the alien wins". The reason is that with enough patience, perseverance (and money for legal fees), aliens can nearly endlessly pursue their cases through a bevy of administrative and judicial proceedings. At some point, it doesn't matter that the government's decision was right or appropriate — government attorneys and officials make a cost-based decision that they no longer wish to expend limited human and capital resources on a single case when they are confronted with a flood tide of other cases demanding attention.

Of more import, though, is the government's strange unwillingness to take the necessary steps to revoke naturalization through court proceedings, criminal or civil, when confronted with overt evidence of fraud. The TRAC report tells us that "Compared to the 195 naturalization suits brought by individuals during FY 2014, there have only been five suits recorded where the federal government sued to revoke an individual's citizenship."

This unwillingness has been noted before at the Center for Immigration Studies. (See here, here, and here.)

Sometimes, though, the government's failure to act transcends even the boundaries of the inexplicable and wanders into the arena of misfeasance, if not downright malfeasance. Consider the case of Gabriela Rosa, a naturalized Democratic New York assemblywoman originally from the Dominican Republic who was recently convicted of obtaining her lawful resident alien status through a sham marriage. After the requisite number of years, she used her fraudulently obtained resident alien status to file for naturalization and become a U.S. citizen.

News reports tell us that, in addition to the immigration fraud, somewhere along the way, Ms. Rosa committed a federal bankruptcy fraud (for which she was convicted) and was involved in illegal campaign contributions and lucrative, but unreported political consulting fees, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. As a part of her plea bargain, the first-term assemblywoman resigned her seat in the New York State legislature.

But she does not appear particularly repentant for her crimes: According to the New York Daily News, she told a reporter, "'You want me, you got me. I never violated my duties as an elected official.'" (This is a difficult proposition to square with the criminal charge of illegal campaign contributions, by the way.) "She began to raise her voice. 'What happened happened over 20 years ago!' she hollered. When asked the identity of her first husband, Rosa shut it down. 'That's none of your business!'"

Here's the thing: the law is clear that when one has obtained underlying resident alien status by false means, then the naturalization itself is unlawful. And yet no criminal denaturalization charge was filed under the federal criminal code. (See 18 U.S.C. Section 1425.)

What's more, the U.S. Attorney's Office suggests that there are no plans to strip her of the illegally procured naturalization by civil means either. (The relevant statute here would be Section 340 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, codified at 8 U.S.C. 1451.) How could this be? What, exactly, has she done to deserve to retain her citizenship? Has our government so significantly devalued its importance that they do not see the propriety of stripping Ms. Rosa of it, and then putting her into deportation proceedings? Why, then, bother to charge her at all? Simply to evade the allegation that they completely ignored her clear history of contempt for the American social contract and the ethical rules governing the polity?

As usual, what we seem to see here is more (pick your metaphor here — kabuki theater, smoke-and-mirrors, Keystone Kops, vaudevillian slapstick) from this administration showing its overarching contempt for all things immigration.