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Haitian Immigrant Ordered Deported After First Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Petition for Derivative Citizenship

shutterstock_140867215SThe First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thomas v. Lynch this week, denying an appeal to recognize the plaintiff’s (Thomas) petition for derivative citizenship after being found removable from the country by an immigration court for committing a felony.

Pierre Thomas was born in Haiti and lawfully admitted to the United States in 1986 as a nonimmigrant visitor at the age of 5 years old. Together with his parents, their visitor visas were supposedly valid for only six months, but his parents decided to remain in the country. Thomas’s father passed away in 1993, and his mother eventually became a naturalized citizen on May 18, 1999, after living in the country with her son for years. Three days after his mother acquired citizenship, Thomas turned 18 years old. He did not apply to obtain legal permanent resident status within that period or at any other time thereafter, and continued to reside in the U.S. without lawful admission.

In 2003, Thomas was convicted in a Massachusetts state court for armed robbery charges. In 2012, the United States began deportation proceedings against him under Section 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the INA 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), which states, “any alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission is deportable.”

While Thomas admits that his priors make him eligible for deportation, he argues that he had obtained U.S. citizenship in 1999 through the derivative citizenship statute after his mother became a naturalized citizen. Still, an immigration judge (IJ) found Thomas removable on the grounds of being an undocumented immigrant convicted for an aggravated felony. The Board of Immigration Appeals would later affirm this decision.

Thomas took his case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, submitting a petition that he had satisfied the criteria for obtaining derivative citizenship because of his mother’s naturalization. The First Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, pointing out Thomas had failed to obtain permanent resident status as a minor, only through which he could obtain citizenship upon his mother’s naturalization.

The First Circuit thus denied Thomas’s petition for failing to meet the criteria in the derivative citizenship statute while he was still a minor.

Cases like this demonstrate the many complexities of immigration law. If you or a loved one is facing a similar situation, don’t hesitate to sit down with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm for a consultation. Visit our website or call us at 512-215-5225.