The Trump administration is establishing a new section within the Justice Department, to discuss the process of removing citizenship from people born abroad who obtained citizenship fraudulently by not disclosing previous convictions serious crimes, including terrorism and war crimes, officials announced this Wednesday, February 26, 2020.
The move will likely inspire increased fear in immigrant communities already on edge over the Trump administration’s immigration restrictions.
The new section will be dedicated to denaturalizing those who did not disclose that they had been involved in criminal activities on their N-400 form for naturalization. It requires the government to demonstrate that citizenship was obtained illegally or “obtained by covering up a material fact or by intentional misrepresentation”.
Form N-400 includes questions asking whether an applicant has been involved in genocide and torture, among other serious crimes, whether they have ever been part of a terrorist or totalitarian organization, whether they have been associated with the Nazi government in Germany and if they have been charged or convicted of a crime or prison comply. The goals for denaturalization are those who have materially violated these questions.
“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes an American citizen under false pretenses, he is an affront to our system, and is especially offensive to those who are victims of these criminals,” said deputy attorney general Jody Hunt. “The new Denaturalization Section will promote the Department’s efforts to prosecute those who illegally obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are responsible for their fraudulent conduct.”
The department has seen an increase in such cases, due to a greater effort by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to eradicate fraud, as well as Operation Janus, an operation that began during the Obama administration and which identified hundreds of thousands of cases where paper fingerprint data was not entered into the centralized fingerprint database.
Denaturalization procedures are not intended for persons who commit crimes after becoming citizens, only those who have filed fraudulent applications for citizenship and have omitted the crimes they committed on that form. Several cases involve those who were initially denied entry to the U.S. or expelled from the country, only to re-enter with a false identity.
Citizens cannot be deported, but those who have been stripped of citizenship return to their permanent residency status, allowing for U.S. deportation or entry ban. In case of serious criminal offences.