(CN) – Korean nationals accused of becoming U.S. citizens through a massive green card scam cannot stay in the United States under equal protection because they were never lawful permanent residents, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The government initiated deportation proceedings against the Kim family in June 2003 after the Kims tried to re-enter the United States with green cards they had received through a fraud.
An immigration judge ruled that the Kims were not eligible for a waiver, ordered their deportation and granted them a voluntary departure.
The Kims petitioned for a review of the immigration judge’s order, claiming they were in fact returning legal permanent residents with a right to equal protection under the 5th Amendment.
The green card scam, which involved hundreds of Koreans and Korean-Americans trying to gain citizenship, began in 1986 and continued until 1994.
A former officer with the Immigration and Naturalization Service was convicted of fraud for accepting bribes from people in exchange for green cards.
The mother of the Kim family, Nam Yeol Kim, admitted that she paid $30,000 to one of the officer’s co-conspirators to get green cards for her family, according to the opinion.
The circuit ruled that the Kims cannot pursue their equal protection claim because their green cards where never valid and therefore, they never had legal permanent resident status.
“Their so-called green cards conferred no rights,” Judge Margret McKeown wrote for the San Francisco-based panel.