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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Petitioner Celestine Okafor, a native of Nigeria, entered the United States in 1990 and became a lawful permanent resident as a result of his marriage to a U.S. citizen. He applied for naturalization in 1994. On March 31, 1995, Okafor was interviewed by an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer about the information in his application for naturalization. Okafor signed a document containing the oath of renunciation and allegiance required of all applicants for naturalization. After the interview, the INS officer recommended the approval of Okafor’s naturalization application; however, Okafor never participated in a public oath ceremony and never received a certificate of naturalization. On Nov. 7, 1997, Okafor was convicted of conspiracies to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. After his conviction, the INS charged Okafor with removability as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony pursuant to 8 U.S.C. �1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Following a hearing, on March 1, 2000, an immigration judge found Okafor removable as charged and issued an order directing that Okafor be removed to Nigeria. In this order, the IJ rejected Okafor’s claim that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen, concluding that Okafor could not have been fully naturalized because he never took the required oath of renunciation and allegiance in an administrative or court ceremony. Okafor appealed from this decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. On Nov. 14, 2000, the BIA accepted Okafor’s arguments that the signed oath form satisfied the public oath ceremony requirement of 8 U.S.C. �1448(a). The BIA found that Okafor’s signed copy of the printed oath demonstrated that the oath “was administered to him by the [INS] at the time of his naturalization interview.” Therefore, the BIA concluded that Okafor had successfully completed the naturalization process, and it ordered the removal proceedings to be terminated. The INS then filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to reopen with the BIA, and the BIA denied these motions on March 30, 2001. In this second decision, the BIA reiterated its “prior conclusion that [Okafor] had been naturalized as a United States citizen,” stating that the INS had “naturalized the respondent by recommending him for naturalization and administering the oath in writing . . . . in accordance with the evidence of record.” On July 25, 2002, the BIA’s initial decision was referred to the attorney general for review. On Dec. 1, 2004, the attorney general delivered his opinion, reversing the BIA’s finding and ruling that Okafor was not a naturalized citizen because he had not satisfied the public ceremony requirements of 8 U.S.C. �1448(a). After reviewing the record, the BIA opinion, and the relevant statutes and regulations, the attorney general held that nothing “excused [Okafor] from the requirement that he”take [the oath] in a public ceremony.’” The attorney general also noted that the INS officer who interviewed Okafor stated “that it was the practice of his office” to require all applicants for naturalization to “sign a copy of the oath at the conclusion of the interviews in order to save time at the subsequent public ceremony and that the office informed all applicants that they would not become citizens until they took the oath at the ceremony.” The attorney general concluded that Okafor “did not meet the requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States” and reversed the BIA’s decision. In accordance with the attorney general’s decision, on December 20, 2004, the BIA vacated its two prior decisions, dismissed Okafor’s appeal, and reinstated the IJ’s prior order of removal. Okafor filed his petition for review with this court on January 3, 2005. On April 14, 2005, Okafor was removed to Nigeria. HOLDING:Denied. The petition presents a question of law rather than a question of fact, because both sides agree about the underlying factual sequence and disagree only about the legal significance of those facts: Okafor argues that the signing of the oath form satisfied the public ceremony requirements of 8 U.S.C. �1448(a); the government disagrees, and argues that �1448(a) requires a separate public oath ceremony. Because Okafor has raised a legal question of first impression before this court, the appellate court has jurisdiction to review pursuant to �1252(a)(2)(D). Okafor’s petition presents issues nearly identical to those considered by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Tovar-Alvarez v. U.S. Attorney General, 427 F.3d 1350 (11th Cir. 2005), and the court is persuaded by the reasoning of that court and by the reasoning of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in PerdomoPadilla v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 964 (9th Cir. 2003). In arguing that his signed oath form satisfied the public ceremony requirement of 8 U.S.C. �1448(a), Okafor presents an interpretation contrary to the clear language of the statute which might create unnecessary obstacles to the removal of appropriately rejected naturalization applicants. Because Okafor has failed to show that his signed oath form met the statutory requirement of a public oath ceremony, he has failed to show that he met the requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, the court concludes. OPINION:Carolyn Dineen King, J.; King, Stewart and Dennis, J.J.

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