Top US court sets limits to stripping citizenship

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump's attempts to tighten the screws on immigration have suffered a blow, with the Supreme Court setting more restrictions on the United States government's ability to strip naturalised Americans of their citizenship.

In a unanimous 9-0 vote on Thursday, the justices said a naturalised American citizen can only be stripped of the status for lying to the government if the false statements would have led officials to deny his or her original entry into the country as an immigrant.

They rejected the Trump administration's stance that the government should be able to revoke citizenship of people for even minor misstatements in the citizenship application process.

The decision - which could have wide-ranging repercussions for millions of immigrants, refugees and naturalised citizens - came in a case concerning a Bosnian Serb couple who failed to disclose details about the husband's wartime past.

The court sided with Ms Divna Maslenjak, who had her citizenship revoked and was deported to Serbia after being convicted of breaking immigration law by falsely stating her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb army in the 1990s. She entered the US as a refugee.

"We hold that the government must establish that an illegal act by the defendant played some role in her acquisition of citizenship," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court. "We have never read a statute to strip citizenship from someone who met the legal criteria for acquiring it. We will not start now," she added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Top US court sets limits to stripping citizenship'. Print Edition | Subscribe