The Supreme Court heard arguments in Maslenjak v. United States, a case about whether minor omissions or falsehoods in an immigration application can cost a naturalized American their citizenship, decades after the fact.
Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General Robert Parker is arguing the case for the Trump administration and took the position that any falsehood or omission, no matter how trivial, was grounds for revoking citizenship. If that seems reasonable to you, consider that question 22 on the immigration form asks whether you've "ever committed, assisted in committing or attempted to commit a crime [you] were not arrested for."
The Supremes were incredulous at Parker's hardline position, and tested it by asking whether driving 60mph in a 55mph zone 20 years ago would be a good reason to expel a naturalized American citizen; they asked whether lying about your weight on a form, or forgetting to list a childhood nickname in the section on aliases, would qualify. Parker affirmed that they would.
Chief Justice Roberts excoriated Parker over this, saying he was "demeaning the priceless value of citizenship."
Justice Breyer pointed out that the standard Parker advocates for would endanger the citizenship of "vast percentages of all naturalized citizens."
Parker affirmed that this was his position.
Careful not to stray into the absurd with the justices, Parker maintained that it is not necessary for the government to prove materiality when it strips an immigrant's U.S. citizenship for lying during the naturalization process.
If a person lies under oath after swearing to tell the truth, it "calls into question the veracity of your other answers," Parker said.
It is also of note, Parker added, that denaturalization is not a lifetime bar on citizenship. It only returns a person to lawful permanent resident status. After five years, if a person becomes eligible again, he or she can be renaturalized, Parker said.
Citizenship Case Takes On Speedsters Who Lie About Their Weight
[Britain Eakin/Courthouse News]