Federal Courts Strike Down INS’ Right to “Denaturalize” U.S. Citizen

The Federal appellate courts in Gorbach v. Reno , have upheld an injunction against the Immigration and Naturalization Service from initiating or continuing denaturalization proceedings against naturalized United States citizens. This important development means that if you or any person you know has been issued a Notice of Intent to Revoke their citizenship, or if they have already lost their citizenship following revocation of citizenship by the INS without going to the Federal Courts to do so, these proceedings may be stopped immediately and any actions taken by the INS may be rendered null and void.

Gorbach v. Reno is a federal district court case originally filed on behalf of 10 naturalized United States Citizens whose status has been attacked by the immigration service. These persons also sought and obtained class certification meaning that any rulings or orders of the court will apply to the whole any persons who have been issued Notice of Intent to Revoke with regard to their naturalized citizenship. On this basis the recent ruling of the Federal courts will benefit all persons who have been issued a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) or any similar such letter from the Immigration Service which indicates that the INS intends to investigate and revoke the basis for that persons naturalization.

The ruling of the Federal court has laid to rest questions concerning the validity of Federal Regulations Section 340.1 which was issued by the Immigration Service following the implementation of new federal statutes in 1996 (referred to as IRRIRA). The Court’s ruling points out that there is no specific provision in the statutes that explicitly confers upon the Immigration Service the right to “re-open” or otherwise challenge the validity of a naturalization application.

The reasoning of the court is that citizenship is an extremely important right which may not simply be attacked through an administrative proceeding but must pass the scrutiny of a Federal District Court judge. The court rejected arguments stating that statutes enacted which grant the INS power to GRANT citizenship would in turn also grant the INS power to REVOKE citizenship. The Court also did not accept as authority, sections of the statutes which stated recent acts would not limit the INS ability to re-open a naturalization application.

The Court held that in a matter as important as citizenship, there must be an explicit grant of authority to revoke a naturalized citizens’ status, and under the law the only government entity which has been granted that power is the Federal District Court. The position of the Federal Appellate courts therefore effectively states that the Immigration Service has overstepped its appointed authority in issuing regulations and initiating revocation proceedings against naturalized citizens, and consequently 8 C.F.R. 340.1 which describes a procedure for “re-opening” of a naturalization application by a District Director of the INS may no longer be implemented against naturalized citizens of the United States.

As a naturalized citizen you have been granted a unique and precious right from the United States Government. The court has rightly held that such a fundamental right may not be challenged and revoked by an administrative process. The court rightly points out that while an agency such as the Immigration Services is constructed and designed to process thousands of applications for benefits from the United States Government, it is not the appropriate agency to challenge and remove fundamental rights such as United States citizenship.

This failing is reflected in the INS’ regulation which describes initiation of proceedings as a motion to re open naturalization proceedings. Naturalized citizens require protection and oversight from the ever-changing policies and initiatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Such protections exist in the only valid means of revoking a naturalized person’s citizenship, initiation or proceedings through the office of the United States Attorney in the Federal District court. With this process the suspicions and beliefs of an Immigration officer may not be simply processed by a District Director, but must withstand the scrutiny of the U.S. Attorney’s office as well as a Federal District Court Judge.

If you or someone you know has been issued a Notice of Intent to Revoke their citizenship, or has received word of a Federal District Court action with regard to their citizenship status, it is highly recommended that you seek qualified legal counsel immediately. Your citizenship should be vigorously defended with a well-informed and qualified practitioner who has a knowledge of all recent developments in the law.