A legal 'end of the road' for Haitian-American
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case involving a Haitian- American who could now lose his citizenship.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Posted on Miami-Herald
Wed, Oct. 12, 2005
A naturalized American may soon have to surrender his citizenship certificate to federal authorities and may be deported, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear his case, the man's attorney said Tuesday.
Because the high court refused to take the case, the Department of Homeland Security can go ahead and seek to revoke the citizenship of Lionel Jean-Baptiste, a native of Haiti who arrived in South Florida on a refugee boat in 1980, attorney Andre Pierre said.
Jean-Baptiste's case has drawn national attention because he is believed to be the first naturalized American to face the possible loss of citizenship over a cri
minal charge and conviction that occurred after he became a citizen.
Generally, immigration authorities deny citizenship when they discover that foreign nationals have lied about criminal backgrounds in their naturalization applications. Authorities at times also have revoked the citizenship of naturalized Americans when they are found to have covered up their preexisting criminal records.
Immigration experts have said that if the Supreme Court rejected the case or ruled against Jean-Baptiste, the action would give the federal government a potent new tool for rooting out naturalized immigrants who are alleged to have committed a crime while awaiting citizenship.
Pierre filed the case in the Supreme Court May 31. He received a notice in the mail Tuesday from the high court denying the petition. Pierre said the denial notice was apparently prepared Oct. 3.
''This is the end of the road for my client,'' Pierre told The Herald. ``We have exhausted all our legal avenues. All doors have
been shut in my client's face.''
Pierre appealed to the Supreme Court after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Jan. 4 that the federal government can revoke Jean-Baptiste's citizenship for alleged drug trafficking while awaiting naturalization -- even though he wasn't charged or convicted until after he became a citizen.
The key issue was whether the mere allegation of criminal activity against the Haitian American showed a lack of ''good moral character,'' a requirement for naturalization. The appellate court said yes.
Jean-Baptiste was indicted about six months after he became a citizen in April 1996 and was convicted at trial in January 1997 of participating in a crack cocaine-distribution conspiracy. He served seven years in prison.
Jean-Baptiste has maintained his innocence. The criminal activity alleged in court took place after he applied for citizenship.
Government attorneys said in court papers that Jean-Baptiste deserved to lo
se his citizenship because committing a crime while awaiting citizenship showed he didn't have good moral character, required for naturalization.
The appellate court agreed, saying a naturalized immigrant cannot lose U.S. citizenship because of a conviction -- but because of the commission of a crime, even if the crime is not yet proven in court.