Filipino loses US citizenship due to prior conspiracy to commit visa fraud

By Reuben S. Seguritan

June 08, 2016

It seldom happens but the citizenship of a naturalized person may be revoked. The process is known as denaturalization.

The grounds for revocation include concealment of material evidence or willful misrepresentation in the naturalization process, membership in subversive organization, and dishonorable military discharge.

Lack of good moral character in the five years prior to naturalization may also lead to denaturalization. This is what happened to a naturalized Filipino whose citizenship was revoked by a district court after he pled guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud in April 2009. The Court of Appeals upheld the revocation on April 18, 2016.

Ceferino Olivar was a native of the Philippines. He was naturalized back in 2002 and started working around the same year in a law firm as a paralegal. The visa fraud he committed did not pertain to him.

He, together with another person, was accused of filing fraudulent applications with the Department of labor and the USCIS. They helped immigrants submit false documents such as diplomas, transcript of records and experience letters to support their applications.

They would charge between $1,000 and $7,500 supposedly to find an employer who would sponsor foreign workers for an immigrant visa. The sponsoring employers never actually intended to hire the immigrant workers, according to the prosecutors.

Based on the facts of the case, the conspiracy began in July 2001 though according to Olivar, he did not commit any overt act to further the conspiracy until after he was naturalized.

Olivar contended that when he was sworn in as a US citizen, he was not a criminal and he had not done any criminal act. The “overt act”, which he argued was an important element of conspiracy, only happened after he was already naturalized. “When I agreed to commit the act, that did not mean that I committed it,” he insisted. “That is the very basic principle of conspiracy.”

The court disagreed with his contention. “So somebody could decide to engage in four or five illegal conspiracies to smuggle drugs, smuggle aliens, do a whole bunch of stuff, and say ‘but hold off, I’m going to become a citizen next week and then we’ll start buying the guns?’ Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber asked. “And that’s okay?”

Olivar clearly thought that as a US citizen, he was not at risk of being deported. Yes, you can be penalized and can be imprisoned, but you will not be susceptible to being deported for the commission of crimes. At least, that is what Olivar thought.

However, the court clarified that one of the requirements for naturalization is having good moral character in the five years prior to naturalization. The court held that even if no overt act was done until after he was naturalized, the conspiracy itself began at the time the defendant agreed to commit the crime. Thus, during the five year period prior to his naturalization or what is known as the ‘good moral character period’, he already failed to comply with that requirement.