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Trump Attempts To Impose a Citizenship-Stripping Rule, The Supreme Court Response Is Perfect


Trump Attempts To Impose a Citizenship-Stripping Rule, The Supreme Court Response Is Perfect

On Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts led the charge against the Trump’s administration position that the federal government could strip countless of Americans of their citizenship rights, the New York Times reported.

During arguments, Roberts made the unexpected confession as he and his Supreme Court colleagues considered a case that tests some of the circumstances the federal government may use to strip naturalized Americans of citizenship

As it turns out, the top justice has broken the law, several times.

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” said Roberts, drawing laughter from those in the courtroom. But the chief didn’t crack a smile.

“I was not arrested,” he added.

According to the report, the justices were considering a criminal statute that penalizes anyone who “procures” U.S. citizenship in a way that is “contrary to law.” The government pressed the argument that any lie on an official form, no matter how small, is a violation that could trigger the loss of citizenship.

But Roberts and the other justices seemed troubled by the implications for a vast swath of Americans. Roberts pointed out that some questions on naturalization forms are written broadly, so as to catch any little misrepresentation or omission that an overzealous prosecutor may later deem “material false statements” that could mean you should no longer be an American.

One question on the naturalization form, for example, asks citizenship applicants to disclose any and all crimes, offenses or attempts to break the law for which they haven’t been arrested — ever.

Zeroing in on the word “offense,” which a legal dictionary says includes even “minor” violations of the law, Roberts suggested that the government could potentially go after those who fail to disclose minor slip-ups years earlier.

“Now, you say that 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,’” Roberts said. “Is that right?”

When Robert Parker, the Trump administration lawyer who argued for the government, answered that authorities expect applicants for naturalization to disclose even trivial violations, Roberts wasn’t having it.

“Oh, come on,” Roberts retorted. “You’re saying that on this form, you expect everyone to list every time in which they drove over the speed limit, except when they were arrested?”

Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s more liberal members, replied:

“It’s, to me, rather surprising that the government of the United States thinks that Congress is interpreting this statute and wanted it interpreted in a way that would throw into doubt the citizenship of vast percentages of all naturalized citizens,” Breyer said.

“I am a little bit horrified to know that every time I lie about my weight, it has those kinds of consequences,” she said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has written landmark opinions about how the law bestows dignity on all people, said the administration’s argument “is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship.”

“That’s not what our cases say. That’s not what citizenship means,” Kennedy told Parker. In the last decade, more than 6.6 million people have become naturalized Americans, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“You’re arguing for the government of the United States — talking about what citizenship is and ought to mean,” Kennedy added.

In the end, it was Roberts, the court’s leader, who saw the severity of the government’s position for what it is: as an opening for prosecutorial overreach.

“If you take the position that … not answering about the speeding ticket or the nickname is enough to subject that person to denaturalization,” Roberts said, “the government will 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 ― or at least most people. And then the government can decide, ‘We are going to denaturalize you for other reasons than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.’

“And that to me … is troublesome to give that extraordinary power, which, essentially, is unlimited power, at least in most cases, to the government,” Roberts added.

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