The Trump administration has begun a new denaturalization initiative that is planning on hiring dozens of attorneys to review the records of people who have become citizens since 1990 to 2016. The purpose of this initiative is the identify people who have purposely lied on their citizenship applications.
With 17 million citizens naturalized between 1990 and 2016, this law challenges the underpinnings of the immigration system.
Currently, USCIS policy puts a high burden of proof on any denaturalization cases. The policy states that the case for denaturalization must be "clear, convincing, and unequivocal...which does not leave the issue in doubt." Until recently, the U.S. Attorney did not prosecute cases of immigration fraud, and for good reason: distinguishing between a fraudulent case and a legitimate one requires more than having a "bad" record.
For instance, immigrants who were granted citizenship under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 were granted amnesty—meaning their record may include offenses that no longer matter regarding their citizenship. Citizens who came here seeking political asylum may have committed crimes in their home country that are not crimes here or may have used a fake identity to safely travel to the U.S. border. Someone with a student visa might have overstayed their welcome to marry a U.S. citizen—legal, but would trigger a search for a bad record.
Each of these cases would result in legitimate naturalized citizenship. Each also would show up on a derogatory background check.
The USCIS is using a 2016 Office of Inspector General (OIG) report to justify its investigative efforts. Two years ago, the OIG reported that there were 858 cases where the USCIS granted citizenship without having access to the applicant's digital fingerprint record. The OIG recommended that the Department of Homeland Security investigate these cases to ensure that citizenship was granted under legitimate circumstances.
The USCIS is taking the report's recommendation and broadening it to the horizon. While it's unclear whether USCIS will attempt to investigate all 17 million naturalization cases between 1990 and 2016, it is at the very least going to refer thousands of naturalization cases for prosecution. According to Ruth Ellen Wasem, the clinical professor of policy at the University of Texas, this is a clear message from the Trump administration: all immigrants, citizens or not, are vulnerable.
The biggest disappointment is that the USCIS is planning on relocating their funds from immigration applications to this new denaturalized initiative—slowing down the processing time for current immigration and naturalization petitions.
Many citizens are now concerned about this new initiative and fear that small illegal cases—like using a fake ID—will trigger denaturalization proceedings.
If you’re an immigrant or a naturalized citizen, speak with The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett, Esp., P.C. today! Call (800) 909-8129 to learn about your legal options as soon as possible. Our New Jersey immigration lawyers are ready to answer your questions. Se Habla Espanol.