Felons face many restrictions on their rights following a conviction. They lose the right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury, and hold certain licenses required in many professions.
Of course as natural citizens of the United States, citizenship is not lost as a result of a felony conviction.
How about those who are naturalized U. S. citizens? Can they lose their citizenship because of a felony?
This blog post will cover whether a felony will revoke a naturalized citizenship.
- Becoming a Naturalized Citizen
- Impact of a Felony Conviction on Naturalized Citizens
- Denaturalization Process
- Supporting Felons Who Have Their Citizenship Revoked
Becoming a Naturalized Citizen
When immigrants to the U.S. seek to become naturalized citizens, they have a number of requirements to meet in order to achieve this status.
First, in order to be eligible, is to be at least 18 years old and to have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. Those who want to become citizens must also pass a test of English proficiency and demonstrate a knowledge of U.S. history and government.
An essential aspect of the application process is to determine if they are of “good moral character”. As part of this, they must be fingerprinted and pass an FBI background check to determine if they have a criminal record.
Applicants are also asked directly if they have ever been convicted of a crime or committed an act for which they could have been charged.
After passing all of these standards, those who become naturalized citizens are sworn in under oath.
Impact of a Felony Conviction on Naturalized Citizens
For those going through this lengthy and involved process to become naturalized citizens, can they have their citizenship revoked by committing a felony?
As with Native born U.S. citizens, the answer is no. Once someone is a citizen, either by virtue of being born in the U.S. or being a naturalized citizen, that citizenship cannot be revoked for a felony committed while they are citizens of this country.
The legal system considers natural and naturalized citizens the same and treats them in the same way.
Felons committing a crime as naturalized citizens will of course face prison time with the sentence being the same under the law for a natural or naturalized citizen.
When questioned about having a criminal record during the naturalization process, those who lie and deny that they do, can have that citizenship revoked, which is called denaturalization, if it is discovered later that they did have a criminal record prior to being naturalized.
This is because the citizenship was obtained under false pretenses. That is, it was illegally gained.
The denaturalization will occur in federal court, usually the district court where the person last resided. This process begins with a formal complaint against the defendant.
An immigration attorney may be retained for legal defense. The accused will have 60 days to file an answer to the complaint.
The United States requires a high burden of proof for a defendant to meet the criteria for denaturalization.
If that citizenship is revoked, what happens then?
Felons in this situation can continue to live in the U.S., but they are eligible to be deported after the denaturalization occurs.
Whether this happens depends at least partly on the seriousness of the crime committed prior to becoming a citizen.
If it is a violent crime, or there is a long history of criminal activity, it is more likely the Federal government will seek to have those felons deported to their country of origin.
Good legal representation will be important to those felons in this situation.
Another consequence to felons who were illegally naturalized, is that any of their children who were granted citizenship based on that parent’s naturalization will also lose their citizenship.
Supporting Felons Who Have Their Citizenship Revoked
For families of felons who are naturalized citizens, being there for them if their true criminal history is found out will be important.
In cases where the spouse may have been unaware of the earlier criminal history, this can be challenging to do. After all, they lied to you also.
Let them know how upsetting it is to have the truth revealed.
There are many reasons why felons lie. They may not have wanted to lie to you but felt pressured to try and protect you.
But also let them know you will support them in facing the consequences of their prior actions. The results may include deportation to their home country, which would have a major impact on everyone involved.
What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know in this situation? What was it been like for them, and how did they cope with it? Please tell us in the comments below.