Many people think that once they obtain U.S. citizenship through naturalization, their status as a U.S. citizen can never be lost. It will come as a surprise to some to learn that U.S. citizenship can in fact be taken away or revoked by the government under certain circumstances. And the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is allocating more resources to reviewing old files and stripping citizenship from anyone who was not in fact eligible, or who obtained their status as a citizen through concealment of a material fact or willful misrepresentation.
In June 2018, USCIS Director Francis Cissna announced plans for a new unit of attorneys and immigration officers based right here in Los Angeles who will play an important role in the new push for denaturalization. The task force is part of “Operation Janus” and has its roots in the Bush administration. At the time, the immigration agency discovered hundreds of cases where individuals were naturalized under new identities despite having prior deportation orders; a situation that came about due to non-digitized fingerprint records. The Trump Administration is devoting more resources to Operation Janus, and in the past year the government has successfully denaturalized several individuals and even secured criminal convictions against several others. There are reports that the agency plans to review as many as 700,000 old files with an eye towards denaturalization.
Who is at risk for denaturalization? Denaturalization is a legal process that requires the government to file a case in federal court, and prove by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence that the individual obtained his or her naturalization through willful misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact. Historically, the government used its limited resources to pursue denaturalization for the most egregious of cases, like Nazi war criminals or those who were involved in ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars. But anyone who lied or provided false information or documents during their immigration process could be at risk.
We hope the USCIS’ increased efforts in the denaturalization context will not lead to charges against those who made honest and innocent mistakes during their immigration process, or take resources away from adjudications of other benefits. However, given the Administration’s view on immigrants, these issues are real concerns.
Now more than ever, SGG is committed to a thorough review of clients’ files prior to filing for naturalization. Any issues in a client’s history need to be carefully vetted and discussed for their potential impact. We strive to ensure that once our clients obtain their precious status as a U.S. citizen, they can rest easy knowing it cannot be taken away.
For more information, please contact us.