The government agency responsible for granting citizenship to immigrants has created a task force to strip those individuals of their citizenship. The group, a so-called denaturalization task force, has as its aim stripping individuals who are found to have lied on their citizenship documents of their legal status.
Specifically, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna says the team will be looking at individuals who are suspected of using fake identities to get green cards and then obtain citizenship through naturalization.
The announcement was made in an interview Cissna granted The Associated Press last month.
“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” he said. “What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”
To date, USCIS had been pursuing such individuals on a case-by-case basis. The new effort would be coordinated, and the cases would be referred to the Department of Justice. DOJ attorneys would seek to revoke individuals’ U.S. citizenship in civil court proceedings if warranted, and could even bring criminal charges related to fraud.
Cissna hopes to have the task force’s new office, located in Los Angeles, operational by next year.
In September 2016, an internal government report found 315,000 old fingerprint records for immigrants who had been deported or had been convicted of crimes, had not been properly entered into a Department of Homeland Security database used to the check identities of new immigrants.
That same report found 800 cases of immigrants who had been deported under one name but later obtained U.S. citizenship under another.
A New Jersey man was stripped of his citizenship in January, for example, on the grounds that he provided a false name to authorities to avoid deportation. The man, Baljinder Singh, had lived in the U.S. for 25 years.
Authorities say that when Sing arrived in the US from his native India in 1991 he was carrying no identification with him. He gave authorities the name Davinder Singh. After failing to appear in immigration court in January 1992, a judge ordered him deported. Singh then filed an application for asylum under the name Baljinder the next month and married a U.S. citizen.
Singh became a permanent resident in 1996, and a citizen in 2006. But he never disclosed his prior deportation order in his paperwork, prosecutors say. The Justice Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services filed the civil denaturalization complaint against Singh in September 2017.
Immigration activists assert that there are valid reasons some immigrants might be listed under different names. Many immigrants, especially from Latin American countries, have multiple surnames, for example.
Cissna says the Trump administration is not interested in those type of cases.
“The people who are going to be targeted by this — they know full well who they are because they were ordered removed under a different identity and they intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on. It may be some time before we get to their case, but we’ll get to them,” Cissna said.
Photo by U.S. Coast Guard via Flickr