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British priest may not have to leave U.S. But he can’t be a citizen after voting error

Belleville News Democrat

Thursday, October 11, 2018  |  Column  |  By Rick Montgomery

Election Issues (not candidates) (39)
An Illinois priest facing removal to his native England is changing his earlier plans to leave voluntarily for having mistakenly voted once in a U.S. election.

At a preliminary hearing in Kansas City immigration court Tuesday, the Rev. David Boase and his attorney told a judge via phone that they will seek a cancellation of Boase’s removal.

If granted, the action would allow Boase to reside permanently in the United States. However, he may never attain citizenship, his lawyer said — a fact that Boase has accepted.

Allowing Boase time to submit the necessary papers, Judge Glen R. Baker scheduled an April 23 teleconference to further discuss the matter.

After Tuesday’s session, Baker said he usually grants such applications, known as a 42A, for persons who meet the requirements of having no criminal convictions and at least five years of legal permanent residency status.

“He better not vote again,” Baker told The Star.

Boase legally migrated in 2004 to serve Episcopal churches in America. While taking the final administrative steps earlier this year for attaining U.S. citizenship, he acknowledged having voted in 2006.

Boase said that when obtaining his driver’s license, an Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles worker had encouraged him to register, so he thought it was OK.

Boase later learned that only citizens are allowed to cast ballots in federal elections. A green-card holder since 2007, he never voted again.

Still, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said his misstep not only barred Boase from citizenship, but required him to return to England because it was against the law.

Voting when not a U.S. citizen “is like a capital offense” in the eyes of federal authorities, explained a Kansas City immigration lawyer.

In news stories, social media and an online video that last month drew national attention, Boase, 69, said his deportation was “inevitable” and that he would not fight the USCIS decision. His lawyer, David T. Cox, suggested voluntary departure, which would allow the priest to return to the U.S. earlier than if he were ordered removed.

But that option was withdrawn after Boase’s story reached other lawyers, who contacted Cox.

They urged him to apply for a 42A cancellation of removal based on Boase’s “good moral character” and clean criminal record. Cox acknowledge having misinterpreted immigration laws.

“That’s very encouraging,” said Jane Weingartner, a parishioner at St. Andres Episcopal Church in Edwardsville, Ill., where Boase has served the past several months. “We’re all very hopeful things will work out.”