Tuesday, March 15, 2016

8th Circuit Upholds Denial of Citizenship To Muslim In U.S. On Religious Worker's Visa

In Al-Saadoon v. Lynch, (8th Cir., March 14, 2016), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the naturalization application filed by an Islamic scholar and his wife who entered the U.S. from Iraq on a religious worker's visa.  Initially the USCIS denied the application on the ground that applicants were not of good moral character.  The district court affirmed on the ground that information on applicants' naturalization application showed that the husband changed religious employers a few months before getting the required INS pre-approval for the change.  The 8th Circuit held that the district court's findings are supported by substantial evidence.  In an interesting footnote, the 8th Circuit said:
The district court stated an alternative basis for its denial of Hamod's petition for naturalization. It concluded that "even if some of Hamod's religious worker services to the ICCC starting in 2000 were voluntary and not paid . . . , those services constitute unauthorized employment." Hamod argues that this conclusion violates his right to freely exercise his religion. In particular, he argues that ... the district court's decision regarding voluntary services punishes him for exercising his religion through volunteer work in his local community of faith. We decline to address Hamod's free-exercise claim, however, because the record clearly supports the district court's primary basis for the petition's denial—Hamod was actually employed by the ICCC before he received the authorization required by his visa.