Recently a Manhattan Federal Judge granted US citizenship to a man who was convicted for murdering his wife in 1985. It was the judge’s opinion that the person in question had redeemed himself by getting out of his alcohol and drug habits and also getting an equivalent of a high school diploma followed by a Bachelor’s degree, all while he served his sentence.
The person in question is a Vietnam War veteran who was convicted for manslaughter. A jury concluded that he had committed the crime because he was suffering from extreme emotional distress after having seen his friend being killed in front of him. On his return after active duty he had been diagnosed with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. It is to be noted that a person convicted for murder can never apply for citizenship.
This incident brings up the question of “Moral Character”, which is one of the key eligibility requirements for U.S. citizenship. Generally, when an immigrant has a criminal record for serious crimes, immigration officials work on getting them deported.
This judge’s decision has made people question the Secure Communities program. Other questions being asked are, is serving the sentence, getting rid of bad habits and getting an education enough to redeem a person from a crime? What is the model code of moral conduct to be checked when deciding who is eligible for citizenship?
The applicant’s attorney says that the applicant has to prove good moral character only from 2005. There are people both for and against the judge’s decision. There are those who say the crime happened a long time ago and he’s served his sentence and now should be given his papers and those who say a crime is a crime no matter when it was committed.
The judge says that the applicant had killed his wife more than 25 years ago and in the period leading to the present, he has redeemed himself. In spite of a minor lapse (a DWI), the applicant’s moral quality as a whole was not affected.
The applicant had filed for naturalization in 2006 and his application had been turned down because of the conviction for manslaughter.