In 2001, an eighteen year-old lawful permanent resident of the United States, formerly of Vietnam, was convicted of distributing cocaine in D.C. In 2003, he successfully completed probation pursuant to D.C.’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, and his conviction was “set aside.” Five years later, he applied for naturalization five years later. The federal government denied his application.Although his drug conviction had been set aside, in the eyes of the District of Columbia, it still counted against him under federal immigration law.
In an opinion issued today, the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed the denial of the application for naturalization. Judge Diaz wrote the opinion in Phan v. Holder, in which Judge Gregory and Judge Wynn joined.