(ESPAÑOL) The new USCIS administrative changes hope to increase the rate of denaturalization.
The administrative changes highlight how Trump officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House adviser Stephen Miller, aren’t just seeking to curtail illegal immigration — they’re also taking steps against naturalized citizens in an effort to reduce the number of foreign-born residents in the U.S.
USCIS says the policy changes are an effort to ensure the nation’s immigration laws are faithfully executed to keep communities safe and secure.
Michael Bars, an agency spokesman, said in a statement that immigrants can always file an appeal when a benefit is denied.
The additional lawyers and immigration officials announced in June by USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna are for a new office that the agency says will serve as a centralized location to review and refer appropriate cases for denaturalization to the Department of Justice.
The cases involve individuals who had been ordered to be removed from the country and intentionally used multiple identities to defraud the government to obtain citizenship, USCIS said.
The new office is the byproduct of an investigation completed in 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered in 2011 that it was missing fingerprint records of immigrants who were fugitives or convicted criminals, as well as those who had deportation orders.
The investigation found that USCIS has granted U.S. citizenship to 858 immigrants who had been ordered deported or removed under another name.
More than 2,500 naturalization cases have been determined to require an in-depth review for possible denaturalization, of which almost 100 have been referred to the Department of Justice for denaturalization, according to USCIS.
So far, six individuals have been denaturalized, meaning ICE will decide whether to pursue deportation proceedings.
With so few denaturalizations for fraud, policy experts say the new office isn’t worth the investment.
Ruth Wasem, a clinical professor of public policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said most people haven’t done anything wrong.
“It’s hard not to think it’s pretty hateful to be assuming people who are trying to go through the legal process are somehow sinister,” she said.