USCIS Starting a Denaturalization Task Force
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
It has come to the public’s attention that the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new denaturalization task force. This force aims to investigate “bad” naturalization cases wherein the agency will hire lawyers and immigration officers to find US citizens who should not have been naturalized. Upon doing so, they revoke their citizenship and then eventually deport them. Lawyers and immigration officers appointed by the agency will have to review cases then refer questionable ones to the Justice Department who will then pursue denaturalization proceedings against US citizens accused of some sort of fraud.
In a recent report, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna says the number of cases will go to the thousands. Back in 2008, this problem was first addressed, and efforts to tackle the issue behind fraudulent cases of naturalization have been in progress since. Even recently in 2016, the efforts were doubled and there were proper plans in place to address these issues. So why the need for publicly presenting a new denaturalization task force?
Former Chief Counsel of USCIS and current director of advocacy group America’s Voice Ur Jaddou expresses her thoughts on the Trump administrations’ new attempt in fighting the issue with fraudulent naturalization given the administration’s current track record:
“Under this administration, this denaturalization effort doesn’t feel like a good government ensuring integrity,” Jaddou said. “That was already happening before this administration. …So, it begs the question, why the suddenly new and, especially public, focus?”
The last time the federal government tried to denaturalize citizens was during the McCarthy period, around 75 years ago. Those the administration refers to as “criminal aliens” are amongst a group of citizens who work and pay social security. In an interview with NPR, history professor, Mae Ngai, says, “this idea that there might be even a couple of thousand people who lied on their applications is a very small number compared to the number of naturalized citizens we have in this country.” There is an estimate of about 2500 cases which will have to be reviewed, and according to both Ngai and Jaddou, they should be concerned.
What’s upsetting about this situation is the way the Trump administration is deciding to handle it. Our government should focus on and ensure good governance, and instead of targetting specific people who are most probably legally naturalized, it should just identify the actual problem and address it. The problem at hand isn’t the specific people who may have been illegally naturalized, the problem is how that is happening. However, the Trump administration has shown time and time again that they tackle issues by instilling fear, rather than ensuring safety and security while solving problems.
“When an immigrant becomes a naturalized US citizen there’s a sense of permanence,” says Ngai. “But the Trump administrations effort seeking those who cheated to get citizenship and plans to take it from them.” As mentioned earlier, naturalization processes have been monitored and observed by efforts to improve them for years now, in ways that don’t instill fear or blindly target people. Is it right for the administration to target those who may be innocent because of their own suspicion?