‘Oh, come on’: Supreme Court Justices Incredulous at Justice Department Immigration Argument

by Laura Clawson –

It, uh, doesn’t sound like the Trump-Sessions Justice Department is going to prevail in its argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that citizenship can be revoked over any misstatement or failure to disclose at all, however minor, that a person included (or didn’t include) on their citizenship application. Yes, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were all vocally skeptical. But there was also this, from Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.

The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.

“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.

It sounds an awful lot like the Trump regime is looking for the right to revoke any naturalized person’s citizenship at any time, while creating an enormous new hoop for people seeking citizenship to jump through. Can you remember every single thing you’ve ever done?

Divna Maslenjak, the woman whose case prompted this exchange, could still face legal problems, since she had claimed that her husband had avoided military conscription in Bosnia when really he served in a unit that committed war crimes. But whatever the specific result for Maslenjak, it doesn’t seem likely that the Trump regime is going to get the far-ranging power it was effectively seeking:

Roberts added that it might not be a constitutional problem, but “it is certainly a problem of prosecutorial abuse.” Given the wide range of questions on the naturalization form, he observed,  the government’s position would mean that government officials would have “the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want, because everybody is going to have a situation where they didn’t put in something like that.” “And then the government can decide,” Roberts warned, “we are going to denaturalize you for reasons other than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.” For Roberts, giving that “extraordinary power, which essentially is unlimited power,” to the government would be “troublesome.”

Welcome to the Donald Trump presidency, Mr. Chief Justice.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos