Immigration Case Lessons: Matter of Ezra Kibichii Bett

Immigration Court | What You Don't Say Can And Will Be Used Against You

In Immigration Court, What You Don’t Say Can And Will Be Used Against You

Seemingly Non-Immigration-Related Documents Can Be Used Against You in Immigration Court

The Board of Immigration Appeals recently determined that a seemingly non-immigration-related document can be used as evidence by the Department of Homeland Security to support its deportation case. The case is called Matter of Bett.

The immigrant in this case sought to obtain a green card based upon an approved petition from his United States citizen wife. However, the government charged that he was not eligible for “adjustment of status” because he falsely claimed to be a United States citizen on two separate occasions. To support its charges, the government relied on two different Employment Eligibility Verification forms (known as the “I-9″) on which the boxes indicating that the applicant is a citizen of the United States had been checked.

(As a side note, non-US-citizens may work in the United States if they present non-fraudulent documentation that shows that they have valid authorization for employment. As examples, a current and valid “lawful permanent resident card” or a current and valid “Employment Authorization Document.” Also, did I mention non-fraudulent?)

The immigrant testified that he was “not sure” if he completed the I-9 forms and that he did not remember if he checked the box attesting that he is a US citizen. Asked specifically about checking the citizenship box, he testified “I don’t think I did.” He argued that he may have left the box unchecked, but that employers “might be motivated to check the citizenship box on the applicant’s behalf because it would allow them to procure workers.” However, the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals came to the opposite conclusion: although the immigrant could not specifically recall if he checked the box, there were other aspects of his testimony and other pieces of evidence that supported the notion that the immigrant would have checked the box because he wanted the jobs. As a result, the judge denied his application for a green card and instead ordered his deportation.

The quick take-aways and lessons from this case:

  • I have also seen the government use voter registration forms to support false citizenship charges.
  • Every government form must be filled out truthfully and accurately. Don’t check the “I am a US citizen” box if you’re not. And don’t leave it blank. (There are other boxes that could have been checked which, with the right documentation, would have allowed the immigrant to obtain the employment.)
  • Anyone who watches enough cop shows knows that the “Miranda rights” include the line “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” In immigration court, anything that you don’t say can also be used against you. (This also reminds me of Mr. Miyagi’s lines in “The Karate Kid”: “Either you karate do yes or karate do no. You karate do ‘guess so’, squish just like grape.” See movie clip below.)

If you or someone you know would like to discuss valid and non-fraudulent ways to obtain employment authorization, I invite you to contact me.