Featured Issue: Denaturalization Efforts by USCIS

AILA Doc. No. 18072705 | Dated August 17, 2018

The Trump administration recently launched an office that will focus on identifying immigrants who are suspected of cheating to get their green cards or citizenship and seek to denaturalize these individuals. USCIS Director Francis Cissna announced that his agency is hiring several dozen lawyers and immigration officers to review these cases.

In September 2016, the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report finding that USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not available. OIG recommends that ICE finish uploading into the digital repository the fingerprints it identified, and that DHS resolve these cases of naturalized citizens who may have been ineligible. Further, the report found that fingerprint records were missing from hundreds of thousands of cases for a variety of reasons.

For many years, the DOJ focused its efforts to strip immigrants of their citizenship on suspected war criminals who lied on their immigration paperwork, most notably former Nazis. And, USCIS and DOJ pursued cases as they arose, but not through a coordinated effort.

USCIS Director Cissna stated that “he hopes the agency’s new office in Los Angeles will be running by next year but added that investigating and referring cases for prosecution will likely take longer.”

As Masha Gessen stated in a New Yorker article, “Indeed, the creation of the task force itself is undoing the naturalization of the more than twenty million naturalized citizens in the American population by taking away their assumption of permanence.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that a USCIS team in Los Angeles has been reviewing more than 2,500 naturalization files for possible denaturalization, focusing on identity fraud and willful misrepresentation. More than 100 cases have been referred to the Department of Justice for possible action.