Harris County Courthouse, where this guy should have gotten a sentence that would have precluded a citizenship application. "i_am_jim" via Wikimedia Commons.
Harris County Courthouse, where this guy should have gotten a sentence that would have precluded a citizenship application.  Image: “i_am_jim” via Wikimedia Commons.

“So, Aaron, what kind of law do you handle?” ”

Anything in litigation that crosses a border.

“Oh.  Immigration?” [After a few dozen times hearing that, I revised my answer.]

Procedural issues in litigation that cross borders.

They still ask if that means immigration, but no.  No, it doesn’t.  At least not with regard to the Hague Service Convention.

However, an interesting development out of Texas last week… a naturalized U.S. citizen was denaturalized (had his citizenship revoked) because he’d lied on his application some twenty years ago.  From the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement press release:

Jose Arizmendi, 54, a native of Mexico, pleaded guilty in April 1996 to aggravated sexual assault of a child in the District Court of Harris County, Texas. When Arizmendi applied for naturalized U.S. citizenship later that month — and again when he was interviewed in connection with his application in October 1996 — he answered “no” when asked if he had “ever been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, convicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance excluding traffic regulations.” Relying on this answer, the U.S. government granted his naturalization application and Arizmendi became a U.S. citizen later that year.

Of course, one has to wonder why he wasn’t incarcerated on the aggravated sexual assault of a child plea– and one has to wonder why the Immigration & Naturalization Service (ICE’s predecessor) didn’t at least run this guy’s prints before giving him the right to vote… but I digress.

As it turns out, when the U.S. Attorney initiated denaturalization proceedings against him, he was serving a hefty prison sentence in his native land, so the Department of Justice had to serve him under the Hague Service Convention.*  Of course, Mexico can be a tough nut to crack— even under the best of circumstances, the procedure takes 9 months or more to receive a proof of service from the Mexican Central Authority.  But he wasn’t going anywhere, so a delay really didn’t grind the wheels of justice to a halt.  Regular plaintiffs don’t enjoy the same ability to wait it out, but they have no choice.


* I wonder if the Hague Service Convention is truly applicable here.  By its own terms, the treaty applies to civil and commercial matters only.  Egypt, for instance, at one time refused to serve divorce papers on the grounds that it considered family law outside the scope of “civil”.  Many authorities in Germany reject requests to serve tort complaints from U.S. jurisdictions with split recovery statutes; they consider such actions at least partially punitive/retributive in nature, so quasi-criminal rather than civil.  It seems to me that a denaturalization action is quasi-criminal, quasi-administrative… not wholly civil.  Still, Mr. Arizmendi is no longer a U.S. citizen no matter how you slice it.