Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Lawful Permanent Residency: What the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services Giveth, It Can Also Take Away

Academic journal article Boston College Law Review

Lawful Permanent Residency: What the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services Giveth, It Can Also Take Away

Article excerpt


Citizenship through naturalization in the United States is a highlycoveted status.1 Every year, approximately six million applications are received from foreigners seeking to become Lawful Permanent Residents ("LPRs") in the United States.2 In 2015, 1,051,031 people became LPRs who presumably will eventually pursue naturalization.3 In 2016, 752,800 people became naturalized citizens.4 These numbers demonstrate that U.S. immigration policy affects millions of people, and any case law that further defines or restricts the path to naturalization in the United States has widespread implications.5

News coverage regarding immigrants and their endeavors to become residents in the United States is pervasive.6 Frequently, this coverage focuses on instances of immigrant fraud or misrepresentation.7 A rarely depicted situation, however, is one where an immigrant with a valid legal claim to LPR status is denied the chance to naturalize as a result of procedural errors committed by U.S. immigration authorities.8 In 1995, Kamal Turfah immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and received LPR status through a derivative visa.9 Though Turfah had no trouble with his LPR status for almost twenty years, when he attempted to naturalize in 2012, he found out that because of the negligence of immigration authorities, he was not lawfully admitted for permanent residency.10 He was subsequently barred from naturalizing.11

Part I of this Comment discusses the history of LPR status in the United States and a key requirement in achieving naturalized citizenship-lawful admission for permanent residency.12 This requirement, although initially ambiguously defined, has undergone extensive interpretation by numerous circuit courts.13 Part I explains these decisions and details the expansion of "lawful admission" provided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Turfah v United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.14 Part II dives deeper into the Turfah decision and addresses how the majority reached its conclusion that the plaintiff was not lawfully admitted.15 Additionally, it discusses the novelty of the court's decision that procedural errors committed by U.S. immigration authorities are sufficient to render an otherwise eligible immigrant unlawfully admitted.16 Finally, Part III argues that the holding in Turfah has unforeseen consequences in that it places a burden on immigrants to police the negligence of immigration authorities and fails to establish a practical way for immigrants to rectify deficiencies with their LPR statuses.17


Section A of this Part provides an introduction to the history of immigration laws in the United States.18 It explains the requirements to become a LPR, including that an immigrant must be lawfully admitted for permanent residence.19 Further, Section A details how federal courts have interpreted the phrase "lawful admission."20 Section B discusses how Turfah's case arrived in front of the Sixth Circuit and provides an overview of the court's holding.21

A. A Brief History of U.S. Federal Immigration Laws and the Judiciary 's Interpretation of "Lawful Admission"

In 1875, in Henderson v. Mayor of New York, the Supreme Court declared that the obligation of creating and managing U.S. immigration law fell to the federal government.22 This decision led to a series of legislative reforms regulating who could enter the country.23 These reforms sought to limit immigration through legislation prohibiting aliens with certain qualities, changes in tax policies, and the establishment of new enforcement agencies.24 Beginning in 1940, the United States started to require foreign nationals to register and to document their right to reside in the country.25 A person with a documented claim to permanently remain in the United States is considered a LPR.26 LPRs have the opportunity to legally work in the United States, receive financial aid, serve in the military, attend school, and own land. …

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