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Abstract

Once an individual becomes a naturalized citizen, the U.S. government can revoke citizenship only upon a discovery that the individual was not eligible to procure naturalization at the time of application. The process to revoke naturalization, referred to as denaturalization, may begin with a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1425, a criminal statute broadly prohibiting any attempt to procure naturalization “contrary to law.”

This “contrary to law” language created confusion regarding the required statutory elements of § 1425. Most courts to address this issue, including the Supreme Court in Maslenjak v. United States, held that § 1425 requires proof of a material misrepresentation to sustain a conviction, meaning the misrepresentation at issue must have actually impacted an applicant’s eligibility to procure citizenship. However, prior to Maslenjak, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals created a circuit split in holding that any misrepresentation made during the naturalization process sufficed for conviction under § 1425.

This Comment argues that the Supreme Court’s opinion in Maslenjak ignored the plain meaning and purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 1425. This Comment begins by examining the history of naturalization in the United States and the evolution of denaturalization procedures. Next, this Comment examines the plain meaning of § 1425 and discusses the purpose of the statute within the broader framework of the laws governing naturalization. Finally, this Comment addresses relevant case law, particularly the Maslenjak case, and argues that the legislative process is the proper vehicle to change the statutory elements for criminal denaturalization under § 1425.

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