Citizenship denied to first Bhutanese applicant in New Mexico


Hari Prasad Subedi, the first Bhutanese applicant for naturalization from Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been denied the U.S. citizenship on the ground that his act of obtaining the voter’s registration card by participating in a registration drive last year is against the law.

Hari Subedi and his four-years-old son
Hari Subedi with his four-years-old son

35-years-old Subedi sat for citizenship examinations on September 19 this year, did excellent, and hoped to be a new American. However, his dream shattered when he received a denial letter a week later.

“During my interview, I honestly admitted my mistake that I committed since I was ignorant of law of the land. Based on her advice, I also cancelled my voter registration card by visiting Bernalillo County Elections Bureau on the same day, and even submitted an official letter certifying that I didn’t cast my vote,” said Subedi.

“I didn’t choose to lie the interviewer by hiding facts, and even said sorry for my ignorance. But, a bitter decision was made against me,” added Subedi.

 Subedi informed the Bhutan News Service that the denial letter explained that he failed to establish as a “person of good moral character”, and his registration to vote was an illegal act.

“Since you have not established that you are a person of good moral character because of the fact that you registered to vote, you are ineligible for naturalization,” the denial letter stated.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in its website states, “Registering to vote or voting in a federal election is a crime if you are not a U.S. Citizen. Non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents (green card holders), who vote, or register to vote, in a federal election also can be denied naturalization and/or removed (deported) from the United States.”

Subedi is of the opinion that he did a mistake, and regretted for that by explaining every fact to the interviewer.

“No one is above law,” admitted Subedi. However, I feel that I was punished for a mistake, and revealing all facts behind it.”

According to Subedi, he has started collecting letters from his co-workers, employers, and friends explaining his actual moral character.

“These letters will truly explain about my moral character,” said Subedi, who plans to submit all those letters to the immigration official during a hearing that he has appealed for.

“Based on my appeal, the officials are working to schedule a hearing,” Subedi added, “I expect that its date would be confirmed in a week or two.”

Subedi is a supervisor of disabled adults at Adelante Development Center’s document imaging center, and also a cashier at Wal-Mart.

He is also the Chairperson of the Bhutanese Social Services of New Mexico. The state has resettled around 150 Bhutanese.

Subedi, who was resettled to the United States on July 31, 2008 from Goldhap camp, was evicted from Gelephu, Bhutan.

The Subedi couple have a four-years-old son, and are also expecting another boy soon.

According to Subedi, however, his wife has not applied for the citizenship as she decided to wait for sometimes.