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SCOTUS decision might not help naturalized Serb immigrant

Immigration Services

On one hand, the appellant can claim victory. On the other, it might not prove to be a win in the long run. Either way, an immigration law ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court has significant implications.

As we have reported on this case previously, we think it only right to follow up with the latest developments. It does not represent a final determination so the appellant's challenge of deportation orders continues.

Ruling eases government's hard-line stance on revoking citizenship

Readers may remember the matter at hand. It involves a woman who is Serbian by birth, but who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2007. She and her family had entered the country seven years earlier seeking refugee status. Her claim was that she feared persecution if she remained in Bosnia.

However, in 2009, U.S. immigration officials revoked her citizenship citing the fact that she had lied on her refugee application about her husband having been part of a Serbian army brigade during the civil war in their country. The unit was implicated in war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.

Her argument to retain her citizenship, the woman said her lie during the refugee application process was not material enough to warrant the loss of her citizenship, but lower courts disagreed and she was deported to Serbia last year.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower court decisions. It said that while naturalization law does say it's a crime to knowingly seek citizenship "contrary to any law," that it is a stretch of interpretation to say her improper statements on the earlier application fit that definition. That's the good news. The less good news is that the court sent the case back to the lower courts for a rehearing using this newly declared standard as a guide on deliberations.

Many legal observers say that given the nature of the woman's lie, she could lose in a retrial.

Immigration law is a complex arena, as this woman's case shows. That's why working with experienced counsel is so important.

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