I’m pretty sure the Trump Administration didn’t think this one through all the way…
Slate published a story recently that suggests a certain position the Trump Justice Department is arguing before the Supreme Court could jeopardize Melania’s status in the United States.
The particular Supreme Court case in question involves a Serbian woman who was applying for U.S. citizenship. She allegedly misrepresented a fact about her husband her paperwork, and was subsequently deported.
The Trump Justice Department argued that her deportation was completely justified, and went so far as to argue that any inaccuracies on official immigration paperwork, even those involving virtually pointless, or “immaterial” issues, justifies immediate deportation – even retroactive revocation of one’s already-granted citizenship.
Slate points to The New York Times for more details. They point out that even Chief Justice, John Roberts found the Trump Administration’s argument way past the point of reasonable:
“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.
The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.
“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.
Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.
The chief justice asked again whether someone’s citizenship could turn on such an omission.
Mr. Parker did not back down. “If we can prove that you deliberately lied in answering that question, then yes,” he said.
The other justices weighed in with an equal weight:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had heard enough.
“Your argument is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship,” he told Mr. Parker. “You’re arguing for the government of the United States, talking about what citizenship is and ought to mean.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked about the failure to disclose an embarrassing childhood nickname. Justice Elena Kagan said she was a “little bit horrified to know that every time I lie about my weight it has those kinds of consequences.”
Mr. Parker said the law applied to all false statements, even trivial ones.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said it was “rather surprising that the government of the United States thinks” that the naturalization laws should be “interpreted in a way that would throw into doubt the citizenship of vast percentages of all naturalized citizens.”
Chief Justice Roberts added that the government’s position would give prosecutors extraordinary power. “If you take the position that not answering about the speeding ticket or the nickname is enough to subject that person to denaturalization,” he said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.”
What the Trump Administration fails to realize, as Slate points out, is that this would justify that Melania’s own naturalized status would be called into question. There is evidence to suggest that Melania violated the terms of her own visa in the 1990s, related to undisclosed modeling work.
The Associated Press uncovered records showing that she had in fact done paid modeling work for several weeks while she was staying in the U.S. in 1996 on a visitor visa, which would have been a violation of that visa’s terms. If, as her lawyer’s statement would appear to imply, Melania did not subsequently disclose this violation on other immigration documents, the Trump administration’s current position would thus suggest she—the First Lady of the United States—is subject to deportation.