Syrian Lawyer with Two Wives Denied Citizenship for at Least Five Years

By David North on September 1, 2023

If one is married to two women, as was the case of a particular New Jersey lawyer, you can be denied citizenship on the grounds of lack of “good moral character”, a Third Circuit panel has ruled, but in an interesting twist, said citizenship can be obtained later.

This on-again, off-again ruling relates to a matter of timing. The attorney, who uses an unusual spelling, is Muhanad Al-Hasani, and he practiced civil rights law in Syria, which led to his imprisonment by authorities there. A native of Syria, he married his first wife there in 2003; she became pregnant and moved back to her home country, Morocco. This was a sensible move — if one had to choose between the chaotic Syria and the peaceful Morocco, choosing the latter makes sense.

At this point, the story becomes a bit blurred because of the reporting of, which said: “but the Syrian government placed a travel ban on Al-Hasani so he could see her or their son”.

Presumably a “not” should have followed “could”. Picking up the Law360 coverage, we learn:

In 2005 Al-Hasani married another woman, Hiam Jouni, without divorcing his first wife [which apparently is not contrary to Syrian law]. After Jouni gave birth to Al-Hasani’s second son, Al-Hasani was thrown in prison for “weakening the prestige of the state” and [for] spreading false information.

Subsequently, the lawyer, who had irritated the regime in Syria, came to the U.S., was given a green card and tried to get a divorce from his first wife, but for various reasons could not get a divorce in either Syria or Morocco.

Neither the part of the Third Circuit’s judgement I read nor the Law360 coverage explained why he could get a green card but not citizenship in his polygamous state. He eventually divorced his first wife in New Jersey in 2022.

We mentioned earlier the matter of timing. He had two wives when he first sought naturalization; but in 2027 when he can apply again, he will have had five years of non-bigamy and thus be eligible for citizenship. I assume he will apply at that time.

The title of the case is Al-Hasani v. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; the PACER file number is 22-1603.

There must be a back-story here of Al-Hasani’s struggles with the Syrian government, his years in one of their prisons, and how he has supported himself while waging all of these battles. Is he U.S.-credentialed lawyer? Will he become a U.S. citizen? How did he manage to secure the green card when so many Syrians cannot? How are the sons doing, one in Morocco and one here?

We will probably never know.