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Can my false statements be used against me in an immigration case?


Can False Statements Be Used Against Me in an Immigration Case?

What Counts as a False Statement?

A false statement in immigration law refers to intentionally providing inaccurate or untruthful information to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or other immigration authorities. This includes both verbal statements and written statements on immigration applications, during interviews, or in response to direct questions.

Some examples of false statements include:

  • Lying about one’s name, date of birth, or place of birth
  • Concealing prior arrests, convictions, or criminal history
  • Claiming to be a U.S. citizen when you are not
  • Misrepresenting employment history or status
  • Providing inaccurate information about family relationships
  • Lying about prior immigration history and status

Even small, inconsequential lies can be considered false statements. Immigration officials take any kind of misrepresentation very seriously.

False Statements on Immigration Forms

One of the most common issues is false information on immigration applications and petitions. Forms like the I-485 green card application, N-400 naturalization application, and I-589 asylum application all require signing under penalty of perjury. Intentionally providing false information on these government forms constitutes immigration fraud.

For example, failing to disclose old deportation orders or criminal arrests on the N-400 naturalization application would be considered a false statement. Even if the previous deportation or arrests were not otherwise disqualifying, hiding them can still lead to consequences.

False Statements During Interviews

Immigration interviews under oath are another situation where false statements frequently arise. Examples include:

  • Lying when asked questions by a USCIS or consular officer
  • Oral misrepresentations about employment or relationship history
  • Falsely testifying in court during immigration proceedings

All verbal statements made during immigration interviews are considered sworn testimony. Lying under oath constitutes perjury and can have severe immigration consequences.

False Claims to U.S. Citizenship

One very serious offense is falsely claiming U.S. citizenship. Under 18 U.S.C. 911, it is a federal crime for non-citizens to knowingly make false statements claiming to be U.S. citizens. This includes:

  • Verbally telling immigration officers you are a citizen
  • Checking the “U.S. citizen” box on the I-9 employment form
  • Presenting fake U.S. birth certificates or passports
  • Voting in federal or state elections as a non-citizen

Falsely claiming citizenship can result in fines, imprisonment, and permanent inadmissibility to the United States. There is also no waiver available for this offense.

How False Statements Impact Immigration Cases

The consequences of false statements depend on the specifics of each case. Some general outcomes include:

1. Bars to Admissibility

Under INA § 212(a)(6)(C), any non-citizen who makes a false claim to U.S. citizenship is permanently inadmissible. They can be barred from receiving visas, green cards, naturalization, and admission to the U.S.

Other false statements can trigger the “misrepresentation” ground of inadmissibility under INA § 212(a)(6)(C)(i). This is a 5-year bar that prevents approval of immigration applications and visas.

2. Bars to Good Moral Character

False statements can also prevent a finding of “good moral character” for naturalization applicants. Good moral character is required to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. Under INA § 101(f)(6), giving false testimony to gain immigration benefits is an automatic bar.

3. Immigration Fraud Charges

Lying on immigration applications constitutes document fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1546. Non-citizens can face civil fines or criminal prosecution. Criminal immigration fraud carries up to 5 years imprisonment and a permanent bar from the U.S.

4. Denial of Immigration Benefits

Any application containing false statements will be denied by USCIS. For example, a green card application (I-485) will be denied if the applicant lied about their immigration or criminal history.

5. Removal Proceedings

Immigration judges can order removal from the U.S. if an applicant is deemed inadmissible for false statements. ICE attorneys often use false statements as grounds to argue for deportation.

Defenses and Waivers

While harsh, there are some defenses and waivers that can overcome immigration consequences in false statement cases:

  • Withdrawal: Admitting to false statements and withdrawing immigration applications before a decision is made. This avoids denial or fraud charges.
  • Exemptions: Certain narrow exemptions exist for false claims to citizenship, such as errors on employment forms.
  • Discretion: Immigration judges have broad discretion to halt removal proceedings if false statements were minor or unintentional.
  • 212(i) waiver: Waives inadmissibility for misrepresentations in family-based immigration cases, if denial causes extreme hardship.
  • 237(a)(1)(H) waiver: Waives removal due to fraud or misrepresentation in narrow circumstances.

The possibility of waivers and defenses depends heavily on the details of each case. Withdrawing false statements early in the process also minimizes harm. But in general, lying to immigration authorities should always be avoided.

False statements have the potential to completely derail immigration cases. Any misrepresentation – no matter how small – can trigger harsh immigration penalties. Applicants should take care to provide accurate and truthful information at all times when dealing with immigration officials. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney is highly recommended before submitting any application or attending an immigration interview.

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