According to reports from several news outlets, the Trump administration is creating a new section within the Justice Department to deal with the process of removing citizenship from foreign-born individuals who illegally obtained citizenship by failing to disclose past convictions for serious crimes including terrorism and war crimes.
The new office, which will be under the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, will be solely dedicated to denaturalizing those who had failed to disclose that they had been involved in criminal activity on their N-400 form for naturalization.
It needs the government to show that citizenship was obtained illegally or “procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.”
The form contains questions asking the applicants whether they have been involved in genocide and torture among other serious crimes, if they have ever belonged to a terrorist or totalitarian organization, if they had been associated with the Nazi government in Germany, and if they have been charged or convicted with a crime or served prison time.
The targets for denaturalization are those who have made material breaches of those questions.
Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said:
“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under pretenses, it is an affront to our system — and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals.”
“The new Denaturalization Section will further the Department’s efforts to pursue those who unlawfully obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are held accountable for their fraudulent conduct.”
The department has recently seen a rise in such cases both because of an increased effort by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to track fraud in its roots, as well as Operation Janus — an operation which started during the Obama administration that identified hundreds of thousands of cases where paper fingerprint data was not entered into the centralized fingerprint database.
Officials have pointed to recent cases whereby the DOJ has secured the denaturalization of terrorists, war criminals, and sex offenders. They include:
- An individual convicted of terrorism in Egypt who admitted recruiting for Al Qaeda in the U.S. He was denaturalized while in Egypt and had his passport taken away from him.
- An individual who got military training in an Afghan jihadist camp and coordinated with 9/11 mastermind Usama Bin Laden.
He “self-deported” to Somaliland.
- An individual who was convicted in Bosnia of killing eight unarmed civilians and prisoners of war during the Balkans conflict. He was denaturalized while serving a sentence in Bosnia.
- One individual who engaged in sexual contact with a 7-year-old family member and another who sexually abused a minor for multiple years.
The department has already submitted 228 civil denaturalization cases since 2008, and 94 cases since 2017. According to officials, it has increased its filing rate by 200 percent in the past three years and has seen a rise in referrals by over 600 percent.
Moreover, such denaturalization hearings are not targeted at people who did crimes after they become citizens, only those who have made fraudulent citizenship applications and left out crimes they committed on that form. Several cases include those who were initially denied entry to the U.S. or removed from the country, only to re-enter under a false identity.
This rule states that citizens cannot be deported, but those who have been stripped of citizenship revert back to permanent residency status, which allows deportation or barring of entry from the U.S. in the case of serious criminal offenses.