Shahid Haque-Hausrath with his client, Andrea Carlson, after she took her oath of allegiance to the United States.

Shahid Haque-Hausrath with his client, Andrea Carlson, after she took her oath of allegiance to the United States.

The U.S. government often tries to deport U.S. citizens.  This is a harsh and inescapable fact, and it is also a difficult one for many people to believe.  However, it almost happened right here in the State of Montana.  Thankfully, the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. stepped in to prove our client’s citizenship and terminate the deportation proceedings against her.  The Immigration Judge just issued a decision ordering that the deportation process be stopped because we established U.S. citizenship.

Our client was unaware of her U.S. citizenship until Shahid Haque-Hausrath, who represented her in Immigration Court, looked into her family history and discovered that she had automatically become a U.S. citizen at birth.  She was married to a U.S. citizen, and obtained a two-year conditional green card through this marriage.  However, when the marriage began to falter, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) terminated her status and put her into deportation or “removal” proceedings.  Not only was USCIS wrong to try and take away her green card, but we were able to show that she never needed one in the first place, because she is a U.S. citizen.

The client’s father was a native-born U.S. citizen who enlisted in the United States Army when he was only 18 years old, and later re-enlisted in the army only a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He served honorably and received several accommodations and citations during his service.  He was stationed in England when he met our client’s mother, got married, and had a child — our client.

Under our immigration laws, a child who is born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent may automatically become a U.S. citizen at birth if certain conditions are met.  The laws regarding transmission of citizenship have changed many times over the years.  To determine acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth, one looks to the law in place when the person was born.  In this case, to transfer citizenship, our client’s father had to have had 10 years of residence in the U.S., at least five of which were after he reached the age of 12.

Military records established these facts very clearly, but the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) nevertheless fought us every step of the way.  Since November, we traded six legal briefs arguing the facts and legal issues.  Today, we received the Immigration Judge’s decision agreeing with virtually all of our arguments, finding that we proved citizenship, and terminating removal proceedings.  The Helena Vigilante also reported on this story:

Over the past several months, state immigration officials have been trying to deport a 67-year-old Miles City woman who, as it turns out, was an American citizen all along.

Andrea Carlson, who lived in Great Britain until coming to Montana in 2009, took her oath of allegiance in federal court in Helena on February 22.

When Judge Sam E. Haddon finished swearing her in, she cried and said, “Thank you, your honor. It’s good to be home.”

Carlson’s father was an American serviceman stationed in the Great Britain during World War II. He was married to Carlson’s mother and acknowledged paternity by putting his name on her birth certificate, but he left them shortly after her birth. Carlson said she never realized she had a claim to citizenship – that is, until Immigration and Customs Enforcement started deportation proceedings against her and she hired local immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath.

When Carlson told Haque-Hausrath her father was an American serviceman, he started wondering if she might be a U.S. citizen. After reviewing her documentation, he realized she met the criteria. So he filed with the court to stop the deportation.

Haque-Hausrath and ICE attorneys duked it out in a series of rebuttals, with ICE going so far at one point to claim Carlson was the product of an illegitimate marriage.

“That was a nasty thing to say. My mother wasn’t a loose woman. She wasn’t a prostitute. She was married to this man and I had proof and for them to make out that she wasn’t, that she was a different kind of person, that hurt,” Carslon said.

ICE attorneys argued that Carlson’s father, Joseph DeCosta, had been married previously. However, they didn’t provide any evidence that he was still married to this other woman when he married Carlson’s mother.

Haque-Hausrath said it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Bigamy might be illegal, but it doesn’t negate paternity.

An immigration judge didn’t buy ICE’s argument in the end and determined Carlson had sufficient proof of citizenship.

This comes at a time when ICE faces increased scrutiny because of leaked documents that suggest the agency pads its stats by targeting people who live in the U.S. illegally but don’t otherwise commit crimes – in other words, by inverting its own priorities.

ICE did not appeal the immigration judge’s ruling.

This case highlights one of the reasons that we filed a lawsuit to challenge LR-121, Montana’s “proof of citizenship” referendum.  There are many other Montanans like our client who are U.S. citizens but don’t have documentation to prove it.  Under LR-121, they could be wrongly denied state services that they are entitled to, and the law doesn’t provide any way that they can appeal the denial of these services.

Our client is overjoyed with the news. After over a year of anxiety while facing deportation, she can finally rest easy.  She is now entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges of being a U.S. citizen — of course until she has the passport in hand, she still lacks clear proof of citizenship.  We just learned that the passport office wants more evidence of her citizenship, much of which she simply doesn’t have.  The work continues.