United States v. Vasquez, No. 20-40332 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The government sought to revoke defendant's citizenship based on his role as a former Salvadorian military officer in extrajudicial killings and a subsequent cover-up occurring during armed conflict in El Salvador. The district court conducted a three-day bench trial and declined to cancel defendant's American citizenship.
The Fifth Circuit found that, although defendant may have refused to actually shoot civilians, he "assisted" and "participated in the commission of" extrajudicial killings during the Salvadorian Civil War, rendering him statutorily ineligible to assume the "high privilege" of American citizenship. In this case, defendant captured the innocent civilians who were killed; he detained them knowing that their unlawful deaths were imminent; and he thoroughly helped with the coverup and coached others to do the same. The court concluded that these actions—undisputed by the parties—show that defendant assisted and participated in the extrajudicial killing of ten Salvadorians at San Sebastian. Therefore, he was not a person of good moral character, was not eligible to become a citizen, and illegally procured his citizenship. Accordingly, the district court erred in concluding otherwise, the court reversed the district court's judgment, and remanded.