Houston federal judge revokes sex offender’s naturalized citizenship

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A federal judge this week approved an order revoking the naturalized citizenship of a Harris County man convicted of a sex offense more than 20 years earlier.

Jose Arizmendi, a native of Mexico, failed to disclose his 1996 conviction when he applied for citizenship, according to federal prosecutors.

“The Justice Department is committed to preserving the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler said in a statement.

“We will aggressively pursue denaturalization in cases where individuals lie on their naturalization applications, especially in a circumstance like this one, which involved a child sex abuser. Civil denaturalization cases are an important law enforcement tool for protecting the public, including our children.”

The 54-year-old pleaded guilty in Harris County to aggravated sexual assault of a child in April 1996, accepting 10 years of probation as part of a deferred adjudication agreement.

He applied to become a citizen later that month, and during his October 1996 immigration interview, he said “no” when asked if he’d ever been arrested or convicted of a crime more serious than a traffic violation.

In light of his answer, the government approved his naturalization application and Arizmendi became a citizen later that year.

But eventually, his past caught up with him.

Through records searches, immigration authorities found out about his 1996 conviction, prosecutors said. Then, they flagged the case and turned it over to the Department of Justice, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Goldman.

“We did not take any action at first because we could not find the individual,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Just before filing the case in 2015, authorities learned the convicted man was being held in a Mexican prison after a 2012 arrest for rape of a minor.

Although Arizmendi might have qualified for criminal denaturalization proceedings, a 10-year statute of limitations forced feds to seek a civil denaturalization instead.

It took more than a year to work through the logistics of serving legal papers to the prison south of the border where Arizmendi was serving his 18-year sentence.

On Tuesday, nearly two years after the case was originally filed, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore ruled that Arizmendi failed to meet the requirements for naturalization and unlawfully procured his citizenship by concealing his conviction, a move that precluded him from demonstrating the good moral character requisite for U.S. citizenship.

Now, he’s been ordered to immediately surrender and deliver his Certificate of Naturalization.
“Applications for naturalization must be candid with all material facts,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez for the Southern District of Texas. “Like in this case, failing to disclose material data should result in denaturalization.”

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