Applying for immigration benefits requires opening up nearly all of your life history to scrutiny by the U.S. government. Failure to disclose requested information can have serious consequences. A federal judge recently sentenced a woman to eighteen months in prison after a jury convicted her of a single count of immigration fraud. Federal prosecutors claimed that the woman failed to disclose a prior conviction in Israel when she applied for naturalization in 2004. United States v. Odeh, No. 2:13-cr-20772, indictment (E.D. Mich., Oct. 22, 2013). Her story made headlines because of connections to terrorism, but the judge noted that immigration fraud was the key issue. After her conviction, the judge entered an order revoking her United States citizenship, meaning she could be deported when she finishes her term of incarceration.
The defendant was reportedly involved with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the 1960’s. This organization, according to the government’s indictment, was one of the first Palestinian groups to use terrorism, including hijackings and bombings. The PFLP was involved in two bombings in Jerusalem in February 1969. One bombing killed two people and injured many more at a supermarket, while the other damaged the British Consulate.
The defendant was arrested and charged with five counts in connection with the bombing. In January 1970, a military court convicted her of membership in an illegal organization, participating in the supermarket bombing, and planting bombs at the British Consulate. She served more than ten years in an Israeli prison before being released in a prisoner exchange with the PFLP in 1979.
The U.S. government was also aware of the PFLP. President Clinton designated it as a Specially Designated Terrorist, which subjected it to economic sanctions, in Executive Order 12947 in 1995. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright designated it a “foreign terrorist organization” two years later. 62 Fed. Reg. 52650-51 (Oct. 8, 1997).
The defendant applied for an immigrant visa to come to the U.S. in December 1994. She left out information related to her conviction and prison time, and answered “no” to several questions about prior criminal history. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1995, and applied for naturalization in 2004. Again, she did not provide information relating to her criminal history and answered “no” to several questions. She became a naturalized citizen in December 2004.
Prosecutors indicted her in October 2013 on a single count of “unlawful procurement of naturalization, 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a), which carries a penalty of up to ten years. The maximum sentence is longer if the fraud was related to terrorism or drug trafficking. A jury convicted her on the one count in November 2014. At her sentencing hearing, the defendant reportedly told the judge that she was not a terrorist, but the judge responded that the only issue he could consider was lying under oath to the government.
The defendant is appealing the conviction. In March 2015, the court revoked her citizenship on the ground that it was unlawfully procured. 8 U.S.C. § 1451(e). At the prosecutor’s request, the court also ordered her removal as an aggravated felon. 8 U.S.C. § 1228(c)(1).
Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger practices in the New York City and Northern New Jersey area. We assist immigrants with the processes of obtaining visas and green cards, and we advise families and businesses who are petitioning for immigrants who want to come to the U.S. To schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and skilled advocate, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.
More Blog Posts:
After More than Two Decades in New York City, Man Finally Becomes Naturalized U.S. Citizen, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, November 26, 2014
Government Grants Naturalization Petition After Initially Denying It Based on Conscientious Objector Status, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 28, 2014
Senate Bill Targets People Who Allegedly Renounce Citizenship to Avoid Taxes, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 7, 2012