U.S. initiates action to strip citizenship and deport Salvadoran ex-military officer

The United States government has initiated legal action to denaturalize and deport former Salvadoran military officer Arnoldo Antonio Vásquez Alvarenga, implicated in the murder of 10 civilians in the so-called "San Sebastián Massacre" in 1988.

In a civil lawsuit filed on February 10, the U.S. government accuses Vásquez of lying and concealing information about his criminal record in order to enter the country and subsequently illegally obtain U.S. citizenship.

Vasquez, 54, moved to Plano, Texas in 1999, obtaining permanent residency through his wife, the daughter of a U.S. citizen.

But in filling out the form at the time, Vasquez, who was indicted, arrested and imprisoned during the investigation of the murders committed by his battalion in San Sebastian when he was a second lieutenant in the army, denied ever having been indicted on charges of first-degree murder or having spent time in prison.

Vasquez again denied his background on his naturalization form and interview, thus obtaining citizenship in 2005.

Although a court in El Salvador did not find him guilty of the murder charge, the Salvadoran Commission for the Investigation of Criminal Acts concluded that Vasquez participated in the murders under orders. By law, this fact precluded him from becoming a U.S. citizen.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the government can revoke a naturalized U.S. citizen's citizenship and cancel his or her naturalization certificate if he or she illegally acquired the benefit by concealing key information or lying on his or her signed statements.

Evidently, there was a flaw in the screening and processing of Vasquez's applications to enter the country and become a U.S. citizen.

But this case is an example of how the government and immigration authorities can take away citizenship from people who have committed immigration fraud - even years after getting it.

Never lie on immigration forms. Although a lie may go undetected initially, no immigration status is permanent if an alien is found to have given false information to obtain it.

It is of utmost importance to consult with an immigration attorney, especially when the person has a criminal record or has participated in an armed conflict, before filing an application for an immigration benefit.