An 87-year-old Pennsylvania man could be deported out of the country if the Justice Department's decision is upheld on appeal. The man, who has lived in Mercer County for 56 years, was discovered to have been a guard at a pair of Nazi death camps in the 1940s. The government, citing federal law, is seeking to invalidate his U.S. citizenship and send him back to his home country of Croatia. But the man's attorney says that case law has evolved on the question of former child soldiers like his client.
Many of the facts in this immigration case are not in dispute. The defendant was living in Austria when he received a visa to move to the U.S. as a refugee in 1956. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1962 and has lived in Mercer County ever since. He has five children.
He was originally born in Yugoslavia in what is now Croatia. When he was 17, the German army invaded and conquered that country. He was drafted into the S.S. and eventually assigned as a guard at Oranienburg and Buchenwald. The latter is now regarded as one of the most notorious death camps of World War II. His orders were to shoot any detainee who tried to escape, though he apparently never had to do so.
At the time the defendant was naturalized, immigration law prohibited anyone who "assisted in the persecution" of other ethnicities, religions or national origins from living in the United States. Many of the laws specifically referred to former Nazis and the Holocaust. When someone allegedly fitting that description is found living in the U.S., the Justice Department usually moves to deport that person.
But an attorney for the accused man says that a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision should partly change that policy. In that decision, the Court found that the law was not clear regarding cases of involuntary participation in persecution. It ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to write a new rule. It does not appear that the board has complied with that order yet.
The attorney says that his client was drafted into the S.S. against his will as a teenager and forced to guard the death camps. So far, his client's efforts to avoid deportation have been denied. A hearing before the Board of Immigration Appeals is scheduled for Dec. 6. If the board sides with the Justice Department, the man could be deported soon after.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Board may deport former Nazi guard living in Pennsylvania," Rich Lord, Nov. 24, 2012