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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Massachusetts Man at Heart of Twisted Citizenship Case

(CN) - A Massachusetts-born man says he spent 10 years in "unlawful exile" after the United States deported him, only to have his recently reissued U.S. passport revoked.

Roberto Dominguez was "born and raised" in Lawrence, Mass., and has a birth certificate memorializing his birth there on Nov. 9, 1979, according to the federal complaint filed Thursday in Boston. To better distinguish the plaintiff from his family members, they are described by their first names in this article.

Immigration problems for Roberto allegedly began when he pleaded guilty at age 17 to assault charges and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Roberto says he completed his sentence only to find himself detained and then deported to the Dominican Republic.

The citizenship confusion allegedly stems from the fact that Roberto's parents later registered his birth in the Dominican Republic as well.

Roberto says his mother, Juana, was undocumented and unmarried when she gave birth to him in Lawrence. She did not identify Juan Dominguez as Roberto's father on the birth certificate and she did not give her own name at the hospital, according to the complaint. Instead she allegedly gave the name of Juan's dead sister, just as she had for her whole unauthorized stay in the United States that year.

Juan and Juana allegedly brought the infant Roberto to the Dominican Republic in December 1979 because they had left their two older children there. The couple married in the Dominican Republic that month and filed Roberto's birth certificate there in January 1980, saying he had been born in Santiago on Nov. 4, 1979.

"These steps were taken in order to simplify, in the family's view, future immigration plans for Juana Dominguez and the three children - the birth registration established Juana and Juan Dominguez as the mother and father of Roberto Dominguez under their own names, and the civil marriage formally established Juan and Juana Dominguez's existing relationship," according to the complaint.

The couple allegedly brought their new son back to the United States shortly thereafter, and Roberto says he has visited the Dominican Republic often for the next many years, using his U.S. birth certificate to travel.

Roberto obtained an immigrant visa, as did his father and two siblings, in 1983 because the family still feared attracting attention to Juana's previous time spent in the U.S. without authorization, according to the complaint.

The address listed on the application for those visas is the same one Juana put on Roberto's Lawrence, Mass., birth certificate, the complaint notes.

Roberto says he was ignorant of the contradictory paperwork until immigration officials confronted him about it when he was 19.

"Of course, Mr. Dominguez had no independent recollection of his own birth or of his parents' actions related to the 1980 visa petition and birth registration," the complaint states. "He did not know how to explain the documents he was shown."

Roberto says it took him 10 years to persuade the U.S. Consulate in the Dominican Republic that he was indeed a U.S. citizen by showing them his "Massachusetts birth certificate and photographic evidence establishing his presence in the U.S. as an infant."

In addition to a birth certificate, Roberto has the "bassinet tag from Lawrence General Hospital and a hospital nursery photograph greeting card his mother sent to his aunt at the time of his birth, which is identical to hospital greeting cards that other family members born at Lawrence General Hospital in 1979 sent to relatives."

Pointing to further proof in the pudding, so to speak, Roberto notes that he is circumcised, "a rare procedure for male babies in the Dominican Republic," as evidenced by the fact that his older DR-born brother is uncircumcised.

Roberto says struggled to readjust when he returned to the U.S. in 2009 and was arrested two years later for drug possession.

While serving another six months in jail after pleading guilty, "the U.S. Department of State revoked Mr. Dominguez's U.S. passport," the complaint states.

Roberto says he "lives in statelessness, and fears that he will be deported again at any time."

The 34-year-old seeks declaratory judgment regarding his U.S. citizenship. He is represented by Andrea Saenz of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.

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