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Naturalized Palestinian on Trial for Failing to Disclose Previous Arrests for Bombing on Citizenship Application

The application for United States citizenship or N-400 is a document designed to ask many questions that relate to national security and the applicant’s past associations and activities. It was created that way with the intention of allowing the Department of Homeland Security to determine if an applicant is eligible for United States Citizenship.

Rasmieh Odeh, a naturalized United States citizen answered “no” to the questions of whether she had ever been arrested for or if she had ever been convicted of a crime. These questions appeared on her N-400 in 2004 when she applied for United States citizenship. Once the application for citizenship is submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, an in-person interview is conducted and these questions are also asked verbally by the Immigration Officer at the USCIS field office where the citizenship interview takes place.

Before applying for United States citizenship, even before entering the United States, Odeh was arrested, convicted and served at least ten years in prison for crimes she committed in Israel. She was involved in at least two bombings that were aimed at Israeli citizens. One of the bombs was set off in a marketplace in Jerusalem and killed two people in 1969.

Odeh, who is an Arab activist in the Chicago area is currently being tried at a federal court in Detroit, Michigan. Hundreds of supporters are flocking from Chicago to Detroit to support Odeh who is a leader in the Palestinian their community back in Chicago.

Her defense attorney, Michael Deutsch stated that Odeh may not have understood that the questions pertained to crimes committed outside of the United States when she answered the questions. He also stated that Odeh, who is 66, was a lawful permanent resident in the United States for close to ten years before applying for citizenship. He claims that the Immigration Officials never said anything about foreign arrests.

In February of this year, the USCIS revised the N-400 form. The eligibility requirements did not change. The reason for the change was to provide applicants with clearer instructions and incorporate technology by allowing applicants to apply electronically. Per the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 and the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008, additional questions were added. These questions relate to criminal and terrorist activities with more specificity and are designed to address the concerns of the Good Moral Character requirement in addition to the security of the United States.

United States District Judge Gershwin Drain has already ruled that Odeh may not claim post- traumatic stress in her defense. However, Judge Drain did state that he believes that Odeh’s claim that she was tortured at the hands of the Israeli military, to be credible.

Pro-Palestinian supporters are outraged and are protesting Odeh’s trial. The protestors are claiming that the United States Department of Justice is attempting to defend Israel and quiet those who do not support it. A jury has been selected in the trial of Odeh at the federal court in Detroit and opening statements are scheduled for this week.

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