A federal judge Thursday stripped the citizenship of convicted Muslim leader Imam Fawaz Damra, setting in motion what could be years of fighting over his deportation.
Federal prosecutors assured Damra that they would hold off on the deportation proceedings and not detain him until after the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decides the imam’s appellate case. Deportation proceedings cannot begin until the 6th Circuit decides his appeal, the judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin made the citizenship ruling three days after he sentenced Damra to two months in prison and four months of home confinement for hiding his ties to terror. Damra must report to prison Nov. 22, after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The process of appealing the conviction is likely to be slow. Many decisions take as long as 14 to 18 months. U.S. Attorney Gregory White said his office may ask for an expedited appeal.
“Whatever we can do to get this done quickly, we will,” White said. “The main thing for us from the beginning was to get this individual out of the country. He doesn’t deserve to be a U.S. citizen.”
Attorney David Leopold filed papers to represent Damra in federal immigration court on the day of sentencing, but said there’s nothing to do unless Damra loses his appeal. If that happens, Damra’s immigration case moves forward.
In that event, Leopold said, Damra’s immigrant status should revert to what it was before he was granted citizenship – that of green-card holder, or legal permanent resident.
It’s a common misconception, Leopold said, that people stripped of their citizenship “are shown the door” out of the United States.
“There are many, many people in this country who are not citizens,” Leopold said. “As legal permanent residents, they live here for many years.”