First, it is noted that the only evidence presented by plaintiff to defeat the Secretary's motion is his own self-serving declarations and the testimony presented by his father. While plaintiff lists twenty-four material facts he alleges are in dispute, many are irrelevant, illogical, and repetitious. Thus, many of these "facts" are not genuine and do not prevent a finding in favor of defendant.
Plaintiff has presented his own testimony that he was raised to obey the commands of his father without question. However, there is evidence that plaintiff did act on his own in some critical areas. First and foremost, plaintiff registered for the draft without discussing the matter with either of his parents. Transcript of Board of Appellate Review Hearing at 51-52 ("Tr."). Moreover, the Court notes some glaring inconsistencies in the evidence presented by plaintiff with respect to the influence that his father actually exerted over him. For example, plaintiff claims that he "was raised in a traditional Spanish family in which his father's word was final." Plaintiff's Disputed Material Facts at 3. However, he also maintains that "before renouncing his citizenship, [he] asked his father repeatedly whether he had to go through with this action." Id. at 12. A "final" word would not appear to permit such dissension. Plaintiff could not have accepted his father's word as final if he repeatedly challenged his father's decision on renunciation.
In addition, plaintiff's father wanted very much for him to perform well in high school so that he might be accepted by certain colleges. He admits that his high school academic record fell far short of his father's expectations. Instead of studying diligently as his father demanded, plaintiff admits that he concentrated on girls and on having fun. Tr. at 22.
Thus, there is evidence that plaintiff did not always accede to his father's demands. Even if the Court were to accept plaintiff's argument that he was dominated by his father at the time of renunciation, that does not explain why he waited almost twenty years to challenge his loss of citizenship. Plaintiff would have the Court believe that his father's dominance persisted throughout the past two decades. This is not a colorable position.
Moreover, plaintiff claims that he was too young, at the time of renunciation, to defy his father and make his own decision concerning his citizenship. However, he testified that he lived "all through [his] youth and [his] adult life up to 1967" in the United States. Tr. at 15 (emphasis added). Thus, during the latter part of his residency in the U.S., plaintiff considered himself to be an adult. If true, he was not a child at the time of renunciation. Indeed, it is undisputed that plaintiff was 18 years and ten months at the time of his renunciation. For these reasons and others, the Court finds that plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence of his youth and inability to resist familial pressure to raise a genuine issue of fact regarding voluntariness.
The law holds that for a renunciation to be involuntary, plaintiff must have been presented with a "Hobson's Choice" not of his own design. See Jolley v. I.N.S., 441 F.2d 1245 (5th Cir. 1971). Plaintiff was not coerced by the threat of law or sanctions to renounce his citizenship. It was his desire to renounce in an effort to avoid hurting his family. His choice to follow the wishes of his family, particularly his father, was a voluntary decision and does not render his renunciation involuntary as a matter of law.
Alleging that economic duress contributed to his inability to defy his father, plaintiff claims that it was financially impossible for him to remain in New York as he had no adult relatives with whom to live or any marketable skills. Conspicuously absent from this argument, however, is the fact that plaintiff had grandparents who lived in Caracas. Tr. 28. He resided with his grandparents during his stay in Venezuela and proceeded to the embassy from their home. As plaintiff had dual citizenship at this time, he could have remained in Caracas with his grandparents and avoided the economic hardship he alleges he feared. Thus, while it may not have been economically feasible for plaintiff to remain in the United States alone, there is nothing to suggest that he could not have stayed in Venezuela as an alternative to renunciation. While economic duress may avoid the effect of an expatriating act, the plaintiff's economic plight must be "dire." See Stipa v. Dulles, 233 F.2d 551 (3rd Cir. 1956). In this case, plaintiff has not provided sufficient evidence of economic duress to present a genuine issue of fact.
In contrast to the issue of voluntariness, it is incumbent upon the Secretary to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the act of expatriation was done with the required intent. Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252, 270, 62 L. Ed. 2d 461, 100 S. Ct. 540 (1979). However, the oath taken by plaintiff at the time of renunciation is sufficient evidence to meet the Secretary's burden. See Richards v. Secretary of State, 752 F.2d 1413, 1421 (9th Cir. 1985). The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to show that he did not, at the time of renunciation, intend a permanent loss of citizenship.
Intent is a state of mind which can be proved directly, but reasonable inferences can also be drawn from other facts and circumstances in evidence which may bear on the issue. Plaintiff's intent regarding renunciation can only be determined by an examination of all of the facts and circumstances surrounding his loss of citizenship. First, and probably most important to this examination, is the fact that plaintiff signed two documents -- his own executed statement and the oath of renunciation -- which clearly state his intention to permanently renounce his citizenship. Plaintiff's written renunciation contains the statement that the seriousness of the act "and its consequences have been explained and understood by me." Defendant's Exhibit 1. Additionally, the oath of renunciation signed by plaintiff states that "I hereby absolutely and entirely renounce my United States nationality." Defendant's Exhibit 2. These statements should have raised a question regarding the permanency of renunciation in the mind of a reasonable person. Plaintiff's protestations to the contrary almost twenty years later do not raise a genuine issue for a trier of fact.
Secondly, plaintiff admits that the Vice-Consul, prior to accepting the renunciation, explained that loss of citizenship would be permanent. It is undisputed that plaintiff heard the Vice-Counsel and understood the concept. He acknowledges that it was substantially different from what his father had led him to believe. Yet, the undisputed evidence discloses that he sought no clarification from the embassy official or, indeed, from his father when they returned to a waiting area to await finalization of the renunciation documents. Yet, plaintiff claims that he chose to believe his father over the Vice-Consul. His explanations for this decision, however, are conflicting. In his testimony before the Board of Appellate Review, plaintiff claims that he believed his father because he did not know or trust the Vice-Consul, while in his Statement of Material Facts in Dispute at 21, he claims that he did not trust the Vice-Consul because "he believed the Vice Consul considered him a draft-dodger."
Finally, the Court takes note of the fact that plaintiff waited over nineteen years to announce that his renunciation was unintentional. He explains this lengthy delay by stating that he did not think that any one would believe that he unintentionally renounced his citizenship. He asserts that in December 1985 he was finally convinced by friends to challenge the CLN.
Undisputed evidence discloses that plaintiff left his parents in 1970, moved to England to attend college, and received Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from Cambridge University in architecture. And yet, according to his own self-serving declaration, it was only when the matter was discussed with friends almost twenty years later, he seriously thought about challenging his loss of citizenship.
Considering all of the facts and circumstances, the Court concludes that plaintiff has not raised a genuine issue of material fact concerning his intent at the time of renunciation. There is simply no evidence, beyond plaintiff's self-serving and, at times, contradictory declarations submitted more than twenty years after the act that he never intended to permanently renounce his United States citizenship. Accordingly, as plaintiff has failed to present a genuine issue of material fact regarding the voluntary and intentional nature of his renunciation, the Secretary is entitled to summary judgment.
For the reasons discussed above, the Court concludes that while the statute of limitations does not prevent the Court from hearing plaintiff's challenge to the issuance of his CLN, defendant has demonstrated that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and summary judgment in favor of defendant is appropriate. An Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will issue.
DATED: January 30, 1989
ORDER AND JUDGMENT - January 30, 1989, Filed
Upon consideration of the motion of defendant for summary judgment, the opposition thereto, and consistent with the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is this 30th day of January, 1989,
ORDERED that the motion of defendant be, and hereby is, granted; and it is further
ORDERED that judgment be, and hereby is, entered in favor of defendant.