Convictions and Fraud Charges: Denaturalization in the Face of Criminal Charges

As previously reported, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) started a collaborative effort to find cases of fraud or misrepresentation in applications for naturalization. Already, this joint effort succeeded in denaturalizing several citizens who misrepresented themselves on their applications. Recently, naturalized citizens, who did not misrepresent themselves on their naturalization application but later were convicted of a crime, have been denaturalized on the grounds of citizenship fraud. Although these citizens were not charged of a crime at the time of their application, the DOJ has begun to pursue fraud charges against citizens who are charged of a crime afterthey applied and received citizenship. In Florida, a Miami resident of nearly thirty years, Nora Borgono, received a notice from DOJ indicating intent to denaturalize following a guilty charge that occurred after she became a citizen.

Grounds for Denaturalization

In the case of Borgono, the DOJ claims the 63-year old grandmother “concealed and affirmatively misrepresented [her] criminal conduct” during her naturalization proceedings. While Borgono was a permanent resident, she worked for a gentleman who was responsible for $24 million dollars’ worth of fraudulent loan transactions. Borgono successfully applied for citizenship before the FBI began to investigate the fraudulent transactions. Later, Borgono cooperated with FBI agents to end the fraudulent activities and received a plea deal which resulted in one year of house arrest, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. Two years after the end of her probationary period, Borgono received a letter of civil denaturalization complaints from the DOJ. According to the DOJ investigators, Borgono is eligible for denaturalization because she concealed criminal activity in her citizenship application, regardless if she was charged after she gained citizenship.

New Initiative from DOJ

In a statement, the DOJ made clear: “Criminals that seek citizenship in the United States and knowingly hide their criminal history have no right to keep their citizenship.” In the application for naturalization, a question states “Have you EVERcommitted, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you wereNOT arrested?” If a naturalized citizen commits a crime prior to receiving citizenship (regardless of conviction) then that individual is at risk for denaturalization. However, if a citizen commits a crime after they have received citizenship, they are not at risk for denaturalization. Citizens who may have received charges that extend into a period of time before gaining citizenship may now be at risk of denaturalization as the DOJ has a renewed interest in reviewing cases of suspect citizenship fraud.