Tis the season for the US Supreme Court case rulings! We have been watching eagerly. While we did not get the opinion of the highly anticipated Jennings v. Rodriguez (still coming!), this week we did get some amazing Supreme Court wins on behalf of immigrants around the nation.
First, the Court unanimously held that the US Government cannot use an immaterial misrepresentation to denaturalize a US citizen. Maslenjak v. U.S. ideally stated that just because an immigrant mistakenly or intentionally lied during their naturalization process, the US cannot automatically use that to revoke someone’s citizenship – considered to be one of the most coveted rights around the world. The Government must demonstrate that the lie by the immigrant was material to the naturalization application. This is incredibly important because we have seen many an instance where the Government has used some immaterial misrepresentation as a pretense to denaturalize someone, when truly they wanted to strip someone’s citizenship for another reason, but could not make their case. NCI is ecstatic that the Court saw through the Governments cloak approach.
Also this week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling advancing criminal immigrants opportunities to seek relief where their criminal defense lawyer did not properly advise their client of the immigration consequences prior to their plea. While the avenue has existed for some time, the disparities in the lower courts have fallen on whether the immigrant can show they were prejudiced and thus warranted a reopening of their matter. The Supreme Court clarified this in Lee v. U.S. in an overwhelming majority issued by Chief Justice Roberts. If an immigrant can demonstrate with contemporary evidence at the time of the plea that they would not have pled guilty had they known the immigration consequences, they can satisfy the requirement to show that they were prejudiced (in other words, they would not have pled and would have gone to trial). Now that does not mean every defendant can say, after the fact, they would not have pled guilty. They must show from the record they relief on the attorney’s misrepresentations to choose the plea over going to trial.
Stay tuned as Jennings is forthcoming!