By Dev Banad Viswanath
The Office of Immigration Litigation prosecutes and defends the federal government on immigration matters in court that also bring denaturalization actions against individuals who are suspected of cheating or lying to obtain citizenship. From 2004 to 2016, denaturalization cases filed by that office and by United States attorneys averaged about 46 each year. In 2017 and 2018, prosecutors filed nearly twice that many cases. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) opened a new office in Los Angeles, CA, where agents have been reviewing over 2,000 naturalization files for possible denaturalization, usually for fraud and willful misrepresentation. There have already been more than 100 cases referred to the Department of Justice as criminal naturalization fraud cases.
The Department of Justice is allowed to file a denaturalization lawsuit against a naturalized citizen if they obtained their citizenship illegally or they lied about or hid something that was “material” to their case during the citizenship process. If a naturalized citizen loses in immigration court, then they will return back to having lawful permanent resident status. A lawful permanent resident can have their legal status taken away and deported through removal proceedings through immigration court hearings if they are found to have violated the terms of their status.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had set up a task force to see how many fingerprint records were missing from people who should have been barred from obtaining citizenship. If an individual’s fingerprints are missing from the database, then it is possible for them to have obtained citizenship under one identity at the same time as having a deportation order under another identity. In 2011, DHS found that 315,000 people who had been convicted of crimes or were fugitives, or who had been ordered deported from the US since 1990 did not have their fingerprints in the DHS database. The California office will be responsible for finding out whether those missing fingerprint records match to anyone who has since become a naturalized citizen.
If you are concerned about the means in which you or a loved one obtained citizenship, you should contact an experienced immigration to discuss your matter.