800 Immigrants Mistakenly Granted Citizenship-Truth!

800 Immigrants Mistakenly Granted Citizenship-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has reported that more than 800 immigrants were mistakenly granted citizenship because of incomplete records.
The Truth:
Reports that more than 800 immigrants were mistakenly granted citizenship due to incomplete digital fingerprint records are true.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on September 8. 2016, that found at least 858 individuals that had previously been ordered deported or removed from the country were mistakenly granted citizenship under a different name because their digital fingerprint records were not available:

USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not in the DHS digital fingerprint repository, IDENT. Although USCIS procedures require checking applicants’ fingerprints against both IDENT and NGI, neither repository has all the old fingerprint records available. IDENT is missing records because when they were developing it, neither DHS nor the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), one of its predecessor agencies, digitized and uploaded all old fingerprint records into the repository. Later, ICE identified missing fingerprint records for about 315,000 aliens who had final deportation orders or who were criminals or fugitives, but it has not yet reviewed about 148,000 aliens’ files to try to retrieve and digitize the old fingerprint cards.

The issues arose because of incomplete digital fingerprint recording practices dating as far back as 1994. That’s when Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) established a digital fingerprint repository to catalogue fingerprints collected by immigration enforcement officers who encountered aliens:

In 2007, DHS established IDENT as the centralized, department-wide digital fingerprint repository. IDENT was built from a digital fingerprint repository www.oig.dhs.gov 3 OIG-16-130 OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL Department of Homeland Security originally deployed by INS in 1994 (used primarily by the Border Patrol).6 In 2008, according to officials we interviewed, ICE management directed its employees to send all fingerprints collected during immigration enforcement encounters to both IDENT and the FBI repository (at the time, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System or IAFIS, now NGI). At the same time, USCIS also began gathering fingerprints digitally and storing them in IDENT; since that time, the fingerprints of individuals who apply for immigration benefits requiring fingerprints are stored in IDENT. Although fingerprints are now taken digitally and stored in IDENT, the repository is missing digitized fingerprint records of some aliens with final deportation orders, criminal convictions, or fugitive status whose fingerprints were taken on paper cards. The records are missing because when INS initially developed and deployed IDENT in 1994, it did not digitize and upload the fingerprint records it had collected on paper cards. Further, ICE investigators only began consistently uploading fingerprints taken from aliens during law enforcement encounters into the repository around 2010. ICE has led an effort to digitize old fingerprint records that

Because of incomplete digital fingerprint records, at least 858 people who had previously been served deportation orders were mistakenly granted citizenship when they applied under a different name. The DHS OIG report concluded that few of these individuals had been investigated or denaturalized:

Under the INA, a Federal court may revoke naturalization (denaturalize) through a civil or criminal proceeding if the citizenship was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation.7 However, few of these individuals have been investigated and subsequently denaturalized. As it identified these 1,029 individuals, OPS referred the cases to ICE for investigation. As of March 2015, ICE had closed 90 investigations of these individuals and had 32 open investigations. The Offices of the United States Attorneys (USAO) accepted 2 cases for criminal prosecution, which could lead to denaturalization; the USAO declined 26 cases. ICE transferred two additional cases with fingerprint records linked to terrorism to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. ICE was scrutinizing another two cases for civil denaturalization.

According to ICE, it previously did not pursue investigation and subsequent revocation of citizenship for most of these individuals because the USAO generally did not accept immigration benefit fraud cases for criminal prosecution. ICE staff told us they needed to focus their resources on investigating cases the USAO will prosecute. In late 2015, however, ICE officials told us they discussed with the Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation the need to prosecute these types of cases, and that office agreed to prosecute individuals with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) credentials, security clearances, positions of public trust, or criminal histories. To date, and with assistance from OPS and USCIS, ICE has identified and prioritized 120 individuals to refer to the Department of Justice for potential criminal prosecution and denaturalization.

The report concluded that ICE should review the remaining 148,000 aliens’ files that don’t have digital fingerprint records and update digitize and upload available finger print cards that it has on file.