Nigerian man who Settled in Columbus Decades ago Becomes a Citizen

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After several decades living in the United States, a time which included two deportation attempts and some time in jail, Nigerian-born Magnus Duruji finally became a U.S. citizen on February 22, 2012. Along with fifty others, representing twenty-seven different countries, he took the oath of citizenship before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King at the federal courthouse in downtown Columbus. Duruji’s story demonstrates just how much determination can be required to achieve the American dream.

Duruji arrived in the United States on a student visa in 1982 to attend Ohio Dominican University. He needed money, so despite a legal prohibition on working with a student visa, he took a job at a Columbus restaurant. Immigration agents raided the place in 1983 and arrested him. A judge ordered him deported, but the deportation was delayed for several months. His case fell through the cracks, and the government took no further action on his case for years.

Duruji went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees and marry an American citizen. He had several children, four in all, and bought a home and some real estate investments. He eventually became a chef.

In 1997, Duruji applied for legal permanent resident status, hoping to clear up his immigration record and clear a path to citizenship. When the government reviewed his application, it located the 1983 deportation order. The law had changed in the fourteen years since the order, and the specific law he had violated was not even in force anymore. Immigration agents arrested him anyway and initiated the deportation process.

The owner of the restaurant where he worked, Cameron Mitchell, held a rally in his support. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who at the time was a member of the U.S. Congress, worked behind the scenes with immigration authorities to try to help Duruji. Duruji drafted his own petition while behind bars challenging his imprisonment. Magistrate Judge King, who would one day preside over his citizenship oath, approved his petition, and a U.S. district judge ordered his release from prison. Eventually, the behind-the-scenes negotiations got him a green card in 2001.

Duruji has dealt with further hardships since his release from prison and acquisition of permanent resident status. He lost his rental properties to foreclosure while his deportation case was ongoing. He developed, then beat, cancer. He opened three restaurants and saw them all fail. He lost one of his four children to untreated food poisoning in 2008.

Still, Duruji decided to try for citizenship again a few years ago, and his dream of becoming a citizen finally came true on Wednesday.

As the spouse of a U.S. citizen, he may have qualified to apply for naturalization as early as 2004, although he may have had some factors that delayed his eligibility. A permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen becomes eligible for naturalization if they reside in the U.S. with their spouse for at least three years and meet certain other eligibility requirements. Other requirements include specific periods of continuous presence in the country, English language proficiency, knowledge of U.S. history, and “good moral character.” This last criteria is generally the most difficult to define, and the one that can tie up many applications.

Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people understand and navigate the U.S. immigration system, which includes the constantly-changing politics of our immigration laws. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us through our website or at (800) 625-3404.

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Design Changes, Meant to Improve Security and Fight Fraud, are Coming for Employment and Citizenship Forms, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 2, 2011
USCIS Announces Plan to Streamline Filing of Citizenship Forms, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2011
New ‘U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet’ Contains Useful Information for New Citizens, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 23, 2010
Photo credit: ‘American flag on fence’ by Andrea Church on stock.xchng.