The Trump administration has drastically increased our nation’s efforts to strip folks of their citizenship. In the past denaturalization was limited to war criminals and human rights violators. Now we’re going after Latino grandmothers for making an error on their citizenship application. More on that later.
The Bush and Obama administration oversaw an investigation that arose after some 300,000 fingerprint results had been lost by immigration services. When these discovered fingerprints were found it revealed that a number of naturalized citizens had committed fraud on asylum applications filed long ago. That said between 1990 and 2017 the Department of Justice filed 300 some denaturalization petitions in court. Since January 2017, there have been 110 filed. ICE has submitted a budget request for over $200 million to investigate citizenship fraud and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that in 2018 it referred over 1,600 cases for criminal denaturalization. Finally USCIS has opened a denatz unit staffed with attorneys. The Trump administration has weaponized the process. The problem built into the system is that for criminal denaturalization there is a ten (10) years statute of limitations. There is no statute of limitations for civil denaturalization. Meaning you can lose your citizenship at any time.
The Latino grandmother in denatz proceedings has lived in the United States for over twenty (20) years. When she applied for citizenship she was working at a business that was being investigated for fraud. She was a secretary and was aware of the fraud but did not profit from it and was cooperating with authorities in their investigation at the time she had her citizenship interview. There is a very odd and ludicrous question ripe for abuse by authorities – have you ever committed a crime for which you were not arrested? She answered no. After she became a citizen she pleaded guilty to a crime related to that investigation. Now the US government is attempting to deport her. War criminal, I think not.
All of the folks being pursued for denaturalization are from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, South America or Africa. What would our president think of that list? The current campaign of denaturalization has two (2) goals. First to manufacture a crisis of rampant fraud in the citizenship process and second to frighten immigrants by taking away the assumption of permanence and creating an underclass of citizenship. Another sad echo from the past is the fact that the last time the United States had a denatz unit was during the McCarthy era. McCarthy’s attorney was Roy Cohn coincidentally our current president’s mentor.