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In 2009, there was a substantial increase in United States citizens living abroad renouncing their United States citizenship.  It is speculated that this increase is due to frustrations dealing with taxes and banking problems, especially those relating to taxes for citizens who work abroad.  Many fall within the category of workers who will have to pay double taxes, both to the United States and to the country where they are working and living.  There also have been problems maintaining bank accounts in the United States when one has a foreign address.  This is because of heightened regulatory requirements that came into fruition after 9/11 and the passing of the Patriot Act.  In light of these burdens, the alternative option of relinquishing citizen is actually typically an easy choice, considering how simple the process is; it simply involves appearing before a U.S. consular or diplomatic official in a foreign country and signing a renunciation oath.

On March 2, 2010, the Supreme Court decided in Johnson v. US, that a crime of simple battery is not a violent felony. Though this decision was based such a categorization for the purposes of sentance enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), this decision may provide precendent that can be applicable in many other areas of law.

The area of assault and battery has been a cause of headaches for attorneys, judges, and law students across the nation. Assault’s common law legal definition, contrary to the general use of the word, is, to put it simply, putting someone in fear of imminent harm. Battery, on the other hand, is the actual touching of the person. This touching, however, is simply qualified as “offensive touching.” Courts routinely note that a simple tapping of another can be grounds for a conviction for battery.

On the other hand, a crime of violence is generally defined as an offense where the use or the threat of use of physical force is an element. Being convicted of a crime of violence can have additional ramifications for the offender; for example, as in Mr. Johnson’s case, he was potentially subjected to a sentence enhancement for multiple violent convictions. In addition, conviction of for a crime of violence has ramifications for immigration purposes. An immigrant who has committed a crime of violence can be subjected to deportation, or prevented from asserted certain rights and defenses when applying for legal status.

Because of the amorphous definitions an act of touching, or threatening to touch someone can take under the categorizations of assault and battery, courts have struggled with whether such convictions should categorically qualify as a crime of violence.

The Supreme Court addressed the issue of simple battery in US v. Johnson, and held that is is not categorically a crime of violence, because such a conviction requires only an intent to touch, without the need to find injury to the victim: We think it clear that in the context of a statutory definition of ‘violent felony,’ the phrase ‘physical force’ means violent force- that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.”

Following the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, the Unites States issued a 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. This allows Haitians who were in the United States at the time of the earthquake to stay in the country legally and obtain work authorization while they are unable to return home. This applies to the 100,000-200,000 estimated Haitians who are currently in the United States. However, Haitians are not automatically granted this status, and must apply for TPS within 6 months of the January 12, 2010 designation, or else their application for TPS and work authorization will be denied. If they do not have any other means of obtaining legal status, they will be subject to removability. According to USCIS, as of February 12th, only 12,000 Haitians has applied for TPS.

It is estimated that over 500,000 Haitians are internally displaced, meaning that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, but their homes have been destroyed or are inaccessible, and thus have no place to call home. Approximately 50,000 of these Haitians have been approved to reunite with family in the United States, but still much await a visa before they can actually enter the country.

Though there are legal ways for Haitians to enter the United States, because of the dire situation in their home country, many are fleeing for the Dominican Republic and the United States, regardless of whether they have received advance permission. The United States Coast Guard is left with the unfortunate task of stopping boats of people from Haiti, and then are left with the problem of where to take them. The United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has made an international appeal to governments to suspend all involuntary returns and grant interim protection to these desperate people, but many countries have been unwilling to announce an official policy to accept displaced Haitians.

In a unprecedented, and somewhat unexpected decision, an immigration judge in granted asylum to a family from jury, finding that “homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress… This family has a well-founded fear of persecution…. Therefore, they are eligible for asylum.”

Germany is one of the few countries in the world where it is illegal to home-school children. The rationale behind this law, as stated by government officials and court cases, is to ensure that children from different backgrounds are properly integrated.

The Romeikes are devout Christians, felt very strongly about educating their children is a different environment; specifically, they wanted to keep their children away from the rowdy classrooms of public schools, where teachers first priority was controlling the classroom, not teaching the students. They also questioned the material to be studied, saying there were too many glorified stories of troublesome children being treated as heroes, setting bad examples. However, the family wants to make it clear that they are not “fundamentalist religious nuts,” who only wish to teach their children the bible. They insist that they want their children to learn the truth about what is going on in the world. Their main concern is ensuring their children get the best education they possibly can, and they just don’t feel that the school system in Germany, neither public nor private, is a venue where that is possible.

In order to successfully obtain asylum status, the applicant(s) must argue that they are members of a distinct group who face persecution by the government because of a fundamental belief or trait they have, such as in this case, by being members in a particular group. The court found that indeed, the Romeikes faced persecution at the hands of the government based on their opposition to the government policy of not allowing home-schooling, and by being home-schooled, this qualifies them as members of a distinct group, a group that has never previously been recognized for asylum purposes. The element of persecution at the hands of the government was based on the severe penalties imposed by the government for those that were found to guilty of home-schooling, which could be as severe as fines up to $11,000, or even losing custody of their children.

So, now the family is free to live in the United States, and educate their children how they see fit, a constitutional right the Unites States Supreme Court has declared as fundamental.