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Injeti v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, No. 12-1167

Decided: December 11, 2013

The Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to deny the application of naturalization for Lakshmi Injeti, finding that she was never lawfully admitted for permanent residence based on misrepresentations about prior marriages contained on her application for permanent residency status.

Lakshmi Injeti is a native and a citizen of India who first entered the United States in 1991. In 2001, Injeti received the status of “lawful permanent resident.” She applied for naturalization in 2006. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) denied her application, finding that although Injeti had been married twice, on her application for lawful permanent residence status, Injeti incorrectly stated that she had no former husbands. Furthermore, in connection with a separate proceeding, Injeti submitted a fraudulent death certificate of her first husband. Injeti appealed the USCIS’ decision to the district court. The district court granted summary judgment for USCIS. Injeti appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

To qualify for naturalization, an application must: (1) show that she was lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and (2) demonstrate good moral character. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court, finding that Injeti was not “lawfully admitted for permanent residence.” The Fourth Circuit explained that an immigrant is not “lawfully admitted” if “her admission, at the time it was granted, was ‘not in substantive compliance with the immigration laws.’” In this case, the court held that her status as a legal permanent resident was not “lawful.” First, she failed to indicate the identity of her former husband on her application for legal permanent residence status. Second, the death certificate of her former husband that Injeti filed was fraudulent.  Injeti downplayed the importance of the misrepresentation, arguing that it was merely a mistake by her attorney in filling out the form. The court disagreed, however, finding that by getting remarried without a divorce to her first husband, Injeti committed bigamy, a crime of moral turpitude, which renders an alien inadmissible for legal permanent resident status. Because the Fourth Circuit found that Injeti was not “legally entitled” to receive legal permanent resident status, rendering her ineligible for naturalization, it did not examine whether her she demonstrated the requisite “good moral character.”

Full Opinion

– Wesley B. Lambert