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United States v. Suarez

August 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Plaintiff United States of America brings this action to revoke Defendant Jose Suarez's citizenship and cancel his certificate of naturalization. Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [40]. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion [40].

I. Background

A. Procedural History

This is a civil action brought by the United States under section 340(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a), to revoke its grant of citizenship to Defendant Jose Suarez, who was admitted to United States citizenship on May 14, 1998. After completing discovery, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, at which time defense counsel moved to withdraw as attorney for Suarez. The Court entered and continued the motion for summary judgment to give Defendant Suarez time to secure new counsel. When he was unable to secure counsel on his own, the Court granted Defendant in forma pauperis status and appointed an attorney to represent him.

The complaint alleges that Suarez was statutorily ineligible to be naturalized as a citizen and that his naturalization can be revoked on any of three grounds: (1) it was illegally procured because he could not satisfy the good moral character requirement for naturalization (Count I); (2) it was illegally procured because he gave false testimony during his naturalization interview pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §§ 1451(a), 1427(a)(3), and 1101 (f)(6) (Count II); and (3) it was procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation (Count III). Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment only as to Count I.

B. Factual History

Defendant Jose Suarez, a male native of Mexico, has been living in the United States since 1978. On July 17, 1978, he became a lawful permanent resident. In December 1996, Suarez filed an application for naturalization with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS").*fn1 At the time of his application, Suarez had no prior criminal convictions. The INS interviewed Suarez about his criminal history, and Suarez provided the requested information concerning prior criminal charges that had been dropped. On April 4, 1998, the INS approved Suarez's application, and he was naturalized on May 14, 1998.

Approximately three and a half months after his naturalization, Suarez was arrested and indicted for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Count I of the indictment charged that between June 1996 and October 22, 1996, Suarez conspired with three other individuals to knowingly and intentionally possess marijuana. Count II of the Indictment charged that during the same time period (June 1996 through October 1996), Suarez knowingly and intentionally possessed with the intent to distribute approximately 196 pounds (or 89 kilograms) of marijuana.

Suarez pled not-guilty and contested the charges, but on February 10, 1999, he was convicted on both counts. On July 13, 1999, Suarez was sentenced to eighty-seven months in prison followed by two concurrent terms of supervised release (for four and three years) and a restitution fine of $750.*fn2 Suarez filed a timely appeal of his conviction in which he challenged the district court's finding that he supervised others in the conspiracy and that the quantity of marijuana involved was at least 100 kilograms. On February 8, 2000, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. Suarez served his prison term, including participation in a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program, and the full term of probation, and he paid his restitution fine in full.

II. Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of fact, the Court "must construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Foley v. City of Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004).

To avoid summary judgment, the opposing party must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is proper against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In other words, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

To prevail in a proceeding to revoke naturalization, the government must prove its case by clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence, and leave no issue in doubt. Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 507 (1981); United States v. Ekpin, 214 F.Supp.2d 707, 712 (S.D. Tex. 2002). This is a heavy burden, but if the government carries it a district court "lacks discretion" and "is compelled to enter a judgment of denaturalization." United States v. Jean-Baptiste, 395 F.3d 1190, 1192 (11th Cir. 2005) (Cudahy, J., sitting by designation); see also Fedorenko, 449 U.S. at 517; United States v. Ciurinskas, 148 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998) (a court lacks "discretion to refuse to revoke citizenship" where an individual procured it unlawfully). Furthermore, despite the ...

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