On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard a case involving a Serbian woman who was deported after it turned out she’d misrepresented a fact about her husband during the process of becoming an American citizen. The Trump administration argued to the court that not only was the woman in question’s deportation defensible, but that any inaccuracy on official paperwork, even regarding the most trivial and “immaterial” issues, can justify deportation and the revocation of citizenship. It’s a position that even conservative chief justice John Roberts found to be an extreme one. Via the New York Times:
“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.
The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.
“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.
Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.
What’s particularly interesting about the Trump administration supporting such an argument is that Melania Trump appears to have committed just such an ommission on her own naturalization paperwork. In 2016, a lawyer representing Melania—a native of Slovenia who was naturalized in 2006—attested that he had reviewed her immigration documents and found no evidence that she had ever violated U.S. law. Later that year, however, the Associated Press uncovered records showing that she had in fact done paid modeling work for several weeks while she was staying in the U.S. in 1996 on a visitor visa, which would have been a violation of that visa’s terms. If, as her lawyer’s statement would appear to imply, Melania did not subsequently disclose this violation on other immigration documents, the Trump administration’s current position would thus suggest she—the First Lady of the United States—is subject to deportation.