This is hypothetical, based out of morbid curiosity, and is NOT a question for specific legal advice. I am a US Citizen by birth and anyone filling out the N-400 should have legal advice.
Anyway, the N-400 application for naturalization as a US citizen includes a section where you are apparently expected to list all organizations/clubs/foundations/associations/etc that you are a member of. What are they really looking for here?
My guess is that they assume that people who are members of Al Qaeda, the Korean Workers Party, NAMBLA, or other groups considered to be anti-American-way will omit these memberships on the application, giving USCIS cause to revoke citizenship when their membership comes to light.
What would happen if you submitted the form and admitted to being (and actually were) a member of Al Qaeda? Would they automatically deny your application, or would they thank you for your honesty and tell you to rejoice at first amendment freedom of association, and please be careful and obey US law, kay?
Has this question ever been used as a pretext to revoke the citizenship of someone who has irked the authorities? E.g.:
To: Mr. So_You_Think_You’re_A_US_Citizen_Who_Can_Attend_Antigovernment_Protests_And_Get_Away_With_It:
It has come to our attention that at the time you filled out your N-400 application for naturalization, you were a member of the North Haverbrook Knitting Circle. You did not list this organization on the form. We have begun the process of revoking your citizenship on the grounds of making a false statement…
How is NAMBLA anti-American way? AFAIK it’s a perfectly legal organization operating within the United States. Could the US government really deny citizenship to (or strip citizenship from) someone merely for being a member of an organization which advocates reform of certain laws? Advocating that age of consent laws be changed does not imply that you are currently breaking said laws.
I didn’t know what to put in there in my application. I believe I left it blank. Then I stressed over it because I was worried they’d find my ARMA (association for renaissance martial arts) page, or my as of yet unpaid columbia records CD club (get CD’s for pennies every month to your home) back in the 90’s.
I doubt that they even bother looking at that field unless it does say something like Al Qaeda.
That’s part of my question. Are there any groups that would result in a denial? I know freedom of association is, in theory, very strong here, so it wouldn’t seem to me that simple membership in or association with Al Qaeda is inherently illegal, as long as you aren’t funding or taking part in its terrorist activities. Same thing with communist parties, I wouldn’t think they can send you up the river just for carrying a red card, unless you are actually plotting (conspiracy) a revolution or something.
I don’t think you can really consider Al Qaeda and the Communist Party to be the same thing; the United States officially recognizes the former as a terrorist organization and the latter as a lawfully constituted political party entitled to contest elections, etc. I don’t know if mere membership in Al Qaeda is illegal in the US, though I think there is precedent for outlawing certain organizations deemed to be criminal.
There are various exceptions, for involuntary members, or members who have quit, or members who are family members of citizens, but in principle, the US government considers the Communist party a totalitarian party, and its members not welcome in the US.
I think the big one is Nazi Party membership. A couple of people (e.g., John Demjanjuk) have had their citizenship taken away for not admitting to Nazi Party membership and activities during the Second World War.
There’s another provision the law, besides the totalitarian one, anyone who participated in genocide, or was a member in the Nazi German government, a German puppet government, or a German ally that participated in the holocaust.