HOUSTON — A federal judge on Thursday revoked the naturalized U.S. citizenship of a repeat child sex abuser originally from Mexico who had unlawfully procured his citizenship because he concealed his 1996 conviction from federal immigration authorities.
This denaturalization announcement was made by the Department of Justice (DOJ). This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation-District Court Section (OIL-DCS).
Jose Arizmendi, 54, a native of Mexico, pleaded guilty in April 1996 to aggravated sexual assault of a child in the District Court of Harris County, Texas. When Arizmendi applied for naturalized U.S. citizenship later that month — and again when he was interviewed in connection with his application in October 1996 — he answered “no” when asked if he had “ever been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, convicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law or ordinance excluding traffic regulations.” Relying on this answer, the U.S. government granted his naturalization application and Arizmendi became a U.S. citizen later that year.
The federal judge also ordered the immediate surrender and delivery to federal authorities of Arizmendi’s Certificate of Naturalization and any other indicia of U.S. citizenship.
When the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court to initiate denaturalization proceedings in February 2015, Arizmendi was serving an 18-year prison sentence in Mexico for a separate sex offense of rape that he committed in that country.
To complete the process and bring Arizmendi within the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the DOJ’s trial team invoked the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, commonly referred to as the “Hague Service Convention,” with the Mexican government to serve the complaint on Arizmendi in a Mexican prison.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore, Southern District of Texas, ruled that Arizmendi’s Texas conviction precluded him from demonstrating the requisite good moral character needed to qualify for U.S. citizenship at the time he naturalized. Judge Gilmore also ruled that he did not meet the requirements for naturalization and unlawfully procured his citizenship because he concealed his conviction from federal immigration authorities.
“DOJ is committed to preserving the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “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.”
“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.”
Trial Attorney Troy Liggett of OIL-DCS’s National Security and Affirmative Litigation Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Goldman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Texas, jointly prosecuted this case with support from Paralegal Specialist Judith Cardona.