By Marcus Fields

Is an Alien Who Falsely Claims United States Citizenship in Seeking Private Employment Inadmissible?

Today in Dakura v. Holder, the Fourth Circuit established that an alien who falsely claims United States citizenship on a Form I-9 in order to gain private employment is barred, as a matter of law, from admission to the United States. Because the Immigration Judge’s finding that Dakura had made such a false claim was supported by the evidence, the Fourth Circuit found that the Board of Immigration Appeals correctly affirmed the decision and thus Dakura’s petition for review was denied.

Dakura’s Story and Summary of Removal Proceedings

In January 2008, Raymond Dakura entered the United States from Ghana on a nonimmigrant F-1 student visa. In March 2008, following the death of his uncle, Dakura relocated from Missouri to northern Virginia and entered into a support agreement with Francis Assamoir, who provided housing and other expenses in exchange for Dakura’s wages. In the process of obtaining employment at Target and McDonald’s Dakura used the identities of two American citizens to complete the Department of Homeland Security’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. On this form he “attest[ed], under penalty or perjury, that he was a ‘citizen or national of the United States.’”

Approximately a year later, Dakura informed Assamoir that he was terminating their agreement, at which point Assamoir reported Dakura to the authorities. DHS instituted removal proceedings in May, 2010. In August, 2010, Dakura married a United States citizen and subsequently obtained a visa and applied for an adjustment of his status to that of lawful permanent resident. This adjustment application was denied in March, 2012 by an Immigration Judge. On appeal to BIA, the opinion of the Immigration Judge was affirmed.

False Claim Bar and Standard of Review

Both the Immigration Judge and the BIA relied on the ‘false claim bar’ found in 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii)(I) in reaching their conclusion. The false claim bar prevents any alien who falsely claims to be a United States citizen in order to gain a benefit under Federal or State law (including § 1324a, prohibiting employers from hiring unauthorized aliens) from being admitted to the United States. According to 8 U.S.C. § 1255(a), an alien’s status may not be adjusted to that of lawful permanent resident unless he is admissible. The Fourth Circuit reviewed the legal conclusions of the IJ and the BIA de novo and accepted factual findings as conclusive “unless a reasonable adjudicator would have been compelled to reach a different conclusion.”

An Alien Who Falsely Claims Citizenship on a Form I-9 is Rendered Inadmissible

The Fourth Circuit determined that filling out a Form 1-9 in order to obtain private employment qualified as ‘obtaining a benefit’ under Federal law. It reached this conclusion by relying on the reasoning of other Circuits, its own unpublished decisions (which are non-binding), and comparisons to a nearly identical statute focusing on deportation rather than admissibility. The Court found especially compelling the statute’s explicit mention of 8 U.S.C. §1324a. Since Form I-9 serves as the main compliance and enforcement mechanism for that section, false claims on the Form were clearly meant to be covered by the false claim bar.

Dakura Falsely Claimed to be a United States Citizen on Forms I-9

The IJ initially found that Dakura had specifically claimed to be a United States citizen (rather than a national) on the Forms I-9. The Fourth Circuit found that the evidence confirmed the IJ’s findings. The Fourth Circuit was not persuaded by Dakura’s argument that his use of another’s identity was not a statement that he was a United States citizen. Instead, “the salient fact [was] that Dakura attested on each of the Forms I-9 that he – the person seeking employment – was a United States citizen.

Petition for Review Denied

Because Dakura falsely claimed to be a United States citizen on Forms I-9 in seeking the benefit of private employment his is inadmissible as a matter of law and thus not eligible for adjustment of status. For that reason the Fourth Circuit denied Dakura’s petition for review.