The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the government’s ability to strip U.S. citizenship from immigrants for lying during the naturalization process.
The justices ruled unanimously in favor of an ethnic Serb from Bosnia who lied about her husband’s military service.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that false statements can lead to the revocation of citizenship only if they “played some role in her naturalization.”
The court rejected the position taken by the Trump administration that even minor lies can lead to loss of citizenship.
The woman, Divna Maslenjak, and her family were granted refugee status in 1999 and settled near Akron, Ohio, in 2000. She became a citizen in 2007.
She initially told immigration officials that her husband had not served in the Bosnian Serb military. That was a lie, she later conceded, and lower courts upheld a criminal conviction against her. The conviction automatically revoked her citizenship, and she and her husband were deported in October.
Maslenjak was convicted by a jury that was told even an inconsequential lie was enough for a guilty verdict.
The high court returned the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to determine whether Maslenjak’s false statements made a difference in the decision to grant her citizenship in the first place.
The case is Maslenjak v. U.S., 16-309.