Featured Issue: Denaturalization Efforts by USCIS

The Trump administration launched an office that focuses 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.

As the New York Times reports, from 2004 to 2016, denaturalization cases filed by that office and by United States attorneys have averaged 46 each year. In each of the last two years, prosecutors filed nearly twice that many cases.

In a budget request for FY2019, the administration asked for $207.6 million to investigate 887 additional leads it expects to get into American citizens who may be vulnerable to denaturalization, and to review another 700,000 immigrant files.

Of Note