When Pankajkumar Patel applied for a Georgia driver’s license, the simplest of supposed mistakes carried catastrophic consequences. In his application, he claims to have accidentally checked the “citizen” box when that did not reflect his status. In reality, he was a citizen of India who entered the country without going through the immigration process.
That one error made him a target for deportation, resulting in a lengthy legal battle.
Patel found himself accused of falsely representing himself as a citizen when he was just trying to gain a legal license to drive, a benefit that is available to noncitizens. He subsequently pursued a review of the BIA’s final order of removal. The agency determined that he was not eligible for discretionary relief.
The Eleventh Circuit issued what has been called a “blockbuster” ruling by the entire three-judge panel. They ruled that citizenship-related false claims make noncitizens removable, even without adverse effects involved in the inconsequential false citizenship claim.
Simply put, a claim of false citizenship should have provided a significant benefit to the noncitizen, such as false claims on a U.S. passport application. Claiming to be a citizen on a driver’s license application should have no bearing on eligibility for immigration status.