Those U.S. citizens born abroad who do not to state any previous jail time served for committing serious offenses could be stripped of their citizenship under new rules.
The Trump administration recently announced plans to set up the new Office of Immigration Litigation within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to crack down on foreigners, who unlawfully failed to disclose previous convictions for serious crimes before becoming U.S. citizens through the naturalization process.
The new office will check whether applicants correctly declared any previous criminal activity in their N-400 application for naturalization lodged through the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The form includes questions about whether the applicant was involved with serious assault, sex crimes, murder, genocide, the Communist Party, a totalitarian party, terrorist organization, and preventing people from practicing their faith. It also asks about the applicant’s role in overthrowing any government with force or violence, and persecuting anyone based on race, religion, national origin, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
If anyone is found to have concealed a “material fact” or committed “willful misrepresentation,” employees will have the power to denaturalize the offending U.S. citizen.
Citizens cannot be deported under current immigration law but anyone who have already been stripped of citizenship would technically be a permanent resident who can be deported or barred entry to the United States if there is evidence of a serious criminal offense.
“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system—and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a statement.
Civil denaturalization cases about terrorism, natural security threats, war crimes, human rights violations, sex offenses, and fraud have no statute of limitations according to DOJ.
“The 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,” Hunt said.
The number of referrals from law enforcement agencies has experienced a growth of 600 percent in the past years, prompting the Trump administration to create a dedicated section to handle such investigations. The department has filed 228 civil denaturalization cases since 2008, and 94 since 2017 according to Fox News.
The jump in investigations came after the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services ramped up efforts to find potential fraud cases while, at the same time, executing Operation Janus, which successfully identified hundreds of thousands of potential cases of paper fingerprint data not being entered into the centralized fingerprint database.
The Office of Immigration Litigation has a 95 percent success rate in denaturalization cases according to DOJ.