A federal court has ruled that a Rosedale man who spent four years incarcerated and facing deportation has in fact been a United States citizen since his parents took their oaths in 1994.
The Daily News reports that Gerald Nwozuzu, 36, was a baby when his parents came from his native Nigeria.
Nwozuzu was 17 and living here permanently when his parents became U.S. citizens. At issue was the wording of federal statutes — changed in 2000 — which had U.S. officials debating his status.
Young children generally become citizens automatically when their parents complete the legal process, provided they are under 18 “and either had a green card or began to permanently reside in he country,” according to the News.
Nwozuzu, who is married, did not have a green card when his parents became naturalized, which some immigration officials felt was required for him to be considered a permanent resident.
The Daily News said the wording at one time kept him out of the U.S. for three years when he tried to return to the country after visiting his sick grandmother in Nigeria.
He subsequently was subjected to deportation procedures because of a 2002 guilty plea on a gun possession charge, for which he did not receive any jail time.
He was then detained by immigration officials in a Pennsylvania facility for 18 months beginning in 2005.
He was released in 2006, but lost his case before the Board of Immigration Appeals and was required to turn himself in for what would turn out to be an additional 31 months in government custody, this time in New Jersey.
Judge Denny Chin, writing the Aug. 12 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan, said that Congress intended only that a child must be living in the country with citizen parents for the benefit of citizenship to apply to the child as well.
He also cited Congress’s frequently-stated intent to keep families together whenever possible.