US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna said his agency is hiring several dozen lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of immigrants who were ordered deported and are suspected of using fake identities to later get green cards and citizenship through naturalisation.
Cissna said the cases would be referred to the Department of Justice, whose attorneys could then seek to remove the immigrants’ citizenship in civil court proceedings. In some cases, government attorneys could bring criminal charges related to fraud.
Until now, the agency has pursued cases as they arose but not through a coordinated effort, Cissna said. He said 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.
“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalising people who should not have been naturalised in the first place,” Cissna said. “What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”
He declined to say how much the effort would cost but said it would be covered by the agency’s existing budget, which is funded by immigration application fees.
The push comes as the Trump administration has been cracking down on illegal immigration and taking steps to reduce legal immigration to the US.
Denaturalisation – the process of removing citizenship – is very rare.
The US government began looking at potentially fraudulent naturalisation cases a decade ago when a border officer detected about 200 people had used different identities to get green cards and citizenship after they were previously issued deportation orders.
In September 2016, an internal watchdog reported that 315,000 old fingerprint records for immigrants who had been deported or had criminal convictions had not been uploaded to a Department of Homeland Security database that is used to check immigrants’ identities. The same report found more than 800 immigrants had been ordered deported under one identity but became US citizens under another.
By Associated Press for SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
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