African citizen who omitted info about his kids loses petition for review of immigration denial

A man seeking U.S. citizenship who omitted information about his children from his visa application is not eligible for naturalization, the Indiana Southern District Court has ruled.

Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Wednesday entered an order dismissing Fitsum Gebrit Segid’s petition for review of the denial of his naturalization petition. Segid is a citizen of Eritrea, a country in East Africa, who obtained lawful permanent resident status in the United States in February 2007.

However, according to Barker’s order, that status was based on a falsehood.

The judge wrote that Segid had fathered two children and had a third on the way with a woman in Eritrea when he applied for lawful permanent resident status, but he had also married a second woman who was an American citizen before two of his Eritrean children were born. The visa application required Segid to list personal information for “ALL Children,” but he marked that section as “not applicable.”

Segid then applied for naturalization in April 2015, at which point he disclosed that he had six children: the three Eritrean children and three others he had with his American wife. During a naturalization interview with a U.S. Customs and Immigration Services officer, Segid, under oath, answered “no” when asked if he had ever made any false statements to a government official.

But USCIS denied his naturalization application in December 2019, finding Segid had provided false testimony on his initial visa application and in his naturalization interview by failing to disclose his three children in Eritrea. Segid sought review in the Indiana Southern District Court, but Barker granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice.

In the Indiana Southern District Court, Segid argued that he didn’t believe information about his three children in Eritrea was relevant because they were not born to his American wife and were not included on the visa petition. The government, however, said the omission was material because disclosure of the children could have led to questions about whether Segid was in a bona fide marriage with an American citizen.

The district court agreed with the latter argument, writing that an “accurate listing of family members is a significant, material part of the consular officer’s review of an immigrant’s case when deciding whether a visa application is approved.”

“His explanations for his failure to list his children do not overcome or nullify his false representation,” Barker wrote. “Without this truthful disclosure, he was inadmissible when he entered the United States and was therefore never lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Accordingly, he is now statutorily ineligible for naturalization.”

The court also found that Segid lacked the good moral character necessary for naturalization, again pointing to the omissions regarding his Eritrean children.

“Here, the period during which Mr. Segid must be able to establish that he has been a person of good moral character ran from April 24, 2010, forward,” Barker wrote. “… In 2016, he denied making a false statement when he testified that he had never given ‘false or misleading information’ while ‘applying for any immigration benefit’ in his naturalization interview.

“… Mr. Segid maintains that the statute requires a subjective intent to deceive the United States Government and that he lacked this intent because he did not believe he had provided false, fraudulent, or misleading information by marking ‘N/A’ on his form,” the judge continued. “However, the subjective intent required to establish false testimony is the intent to obtain an immigration benefit; the statute does not require the intent to deceive.”

The case is Fitsum Gebrit Segid v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al., 1:20-cv-01228.

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