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Chioma Ihejirika v. Evangelia Klapakis

September 29, 2011

CHIOMA IHEJIRIKA
v.
EVANGELIA KLAPAKIS, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ludwig, J.

MEMORANDUM

Chioma Joy Ihejirika petitions for review of the June 26, 2008 decision of the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denying her application for naturalization to become a United States citizen. The application was denied on the sole basis that petitioner lacked the good moral character to become a citizen. Following a hearing to review the decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) affirmed the decision on April 15, 2010. Jurisdiction is 8 U.S.C. §§ 1421(c), 1447; 8 C.F.R. § 336.9. Judicial review is de novo and "the court shall make its own findings of fact and conclusions of law . . . ." Id.

Petitioner was born in Nigeria on June 15, 1972. In 1992, she entered the United States using a passport that was not her own. On December 14, 1996, she married Emmanuel Asoluka Ihejirika, a United States citizen. Mr. and Mrs. Ihejirika have been employed steadily and have paid their taxes. They own their home where they live with their four children who are between the ages of 5 and 14 years. The family has been active in their church. They have given financial assistance to family members in Nigeria. Petitioner has no criminal record.

On April 11, 2001, petitioner applied for an adjustment of immigration status. As part of the application, she admitted that she "entered the United States on a passport that was not my own." Administrative Record ("R.") 41. On May 22, 2002, INS waived this ground for excluding her and granted her lawful permanent resident status.

On June 27-30, 2007, petitioner applied to become a United States citizen. Although she had been assisted by counsel in applying for permanent residency, she was not assisted by counsel in the applying for citizenship. In the application for naturalization, she answered by check-marking the "no" boxes adjacent to the questions:

Have you ever given false or misleading information to any U.S. government official while applying for any immigration benefit or to prevent deportation, exclusion or removal?"

Have you ever lied to any U.S. government official to gain entry or admission into the United States?

R. 17. She certified under oath and penalty of perjury that "this application, and the evidence submitted with it, are all true and correct." R. 19.

On June 24, 2008, CIS adjudication officer Jeanne Ciccone interviewed petitioner under oath about the application. The officer does not remember the interview. The parties agree the officer asked the following questions to which petitioner answered "no":

Have you ever lied to a US government official or given false or misleading information?

Have you ever used fraudulent documents or anyone else's documents for any reason? "The Parties' Joint Submission . . ." ("J.S.") ¶¶ 10-12, doc. no. 13. At the end of the interview, petitioner certified under oath and penalty of perjury that the contents of the application were "true and correct to the best of [her] knowledge and belief." R. 19.

Officer Ciccone had petitioner's entire file. However, the officer did not "confront" petitioner "about her entry into the United States in 1992" and did not ask petitioner "any other questions regarding her entry into the United States, or any other questions to jog her memory, and does not recall [petitioner] making any other statement regarding her entry into the United States." J.S. ¶ 13.

On June 26, 2008, CIS denied the application for naturalization. R. 20-22. The decision was based solely on a finding that petitioner lacked good moral character pursuant to 8 C.F.R. §§ 316.2(a)(7), 316.10(a), 316.10(b)(2)(vi).*fn1 The officer found that petitioner had given "false or misleading information to an immigration officer" by "concealing" her use of another's passport to gain entry to the United States "in order to secure a favorable decision regarding [petitioner's] application for naturalization." R. 22. P e t i t i o n e r appealed the decision. On the request form for a hearing, petitioner's attorney stated that her "misunderstanding of the questions -- caused by limited understanding of English language and nervousness, led to her wrong responses to questions asked at her naturalization examination." R. 23. Petitioner attached an affidavit to the form, attesting to that reason and an additional reason for her answers:

I thought that those questions concerns the period covering since my Green Card was granted to present. In my mind, I thought that the question about how I entered the United States of America was resolved many years ago when my Green Card was granted. If I had understood the officer's questions correctly, I had ...


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