Crime

Feds tried for four years to strip a KC-area man of his citizenship. They failed.

The federal government tried for four years to revoke a Kansas City-area man’s U.S. citizenship.

But that effort failed in May when a judge determined the government did not meet its burden to prove the man improperly obtained his citizen status.

The judge’s decision was finalized last week when the government did not appeal by its deadline to do so, bringing an end to the case against 55-year-old Afaq Ahmed Malik, according to his Overland Park-based attorney, Matthew Hoppock.

Malik, therefore, will remain a U.S. citizen.

Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice in 2015 brought the case against Malik in an attempt to revoke his citizenship and cancel his certificate of naturalization, which was approved by early 2009.

The case primarily focused on the fact Malik did not disclose his previous marriage to a woman in Pakistan on his applications for permanent residence or citizenship.

Carlos Murguia, a U.S. District judge in Kansas, said the Justice Department lacked “reliable, clear, unequivocal and convincing” evidence about what occurred during Malik’s immigration-related interviews.

Two immigration officers, one of whom is now dead and the other of whom has since retired, did not follow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy for conducting interviews, according to the judge’s order. It was not clear if Malik was asked about his previous marriage during his immigration interviews.

Murguia also noted that even if Malik had disclosed information about his ex-wife, that fact alone would not have made him ineligible for naturalization.

Malik married a woman in 1995 in Pakistan and had three children with her, court records show. They got divorced five years later, proceedings his brother testified he witnessed.

In 2000, Malik visited the United States on a temporary visa with no plans of staying. He met a woman he married in October 2000 in Raytown. She later testified the marriage was not a sham and was based on love, according to court documents.

After the two married, they filed taxes together, leased a house and shared responsibility for their utilities, among other things, according to the judge’s order. Malik did not tell his new wife about his ex-wife and kids abroad, the judge said.

In 2007, Malik divorced that woman and remarried his ex-wife in Pakistan, according to court filings. The next year, he received a notice that his naturalization, which had been pending for five years, would be approved.

Malik later filed requests for two of his children to be allowed to live permanently in the United States. He was then notified in 2014 that he was the target of a denaturalization case based on the accusation he never got divorced in Pakistan.

After hearing evidence in October, Murguia found that Malik was divorced from his first wife in 2000, meaning his second marriage was valid and “capable of conferring” his permanent residence status, according to the judge’s 17-page order.

Reached by The Star, Malik said he did not want to discuss the case.

His attorney could not be reached Monday because he was out of the office, a staff member said. In an interview in May with The Intercept, an online news outlet, Hoppock said the case appeared to have been brought “for what appears to be a simple mistake.”

The Justice Department lost Malik’s case as President Donald Trump’s administration has been vocal about cracking down on illegal immigration.

It comes nearly a year after Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an office that planned to focus on identifying Americans suspected of cheating to get their citizenship and seek to strip them of it, the Associated Press reported.

For years before, most U.S. efforts to strip citizenship focused on suspected war criminals, such as former Nazis, the AP reported.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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