The U.S. Government appears to have granted citizenship to more than 850 immigrants. Worryingly, all of the migrants were from countries that were deemed troublesome to the interests of the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog has revealed that at least 858 people, who were supposed to leave the United States, were instead granted citizenship. The immigrants had pending deportation orders and were supposed to be sent back to their respective countries. However, owing to lack of identity verification parameters, these people were granted citizenship. What’s even more concerning is the fact that these individuals came from countries with questionable repute. The countries were deemed as a national security concern.
It is feared the immigrants might have managed to manipulate the system and gain a valid residency status simply by assuming another identity. The investigators have uncovered several such cases and blamed the gaping discrepancies in major government fingerprint databases. It has now become apparent that multiple government records do not include thousands of references to immigrants who are criminals, many of whom have deep ties with countries that are known to harbor and train terrorists, apart from fueling terrorism.
How could so many immigrants slip past the security measures? Homeland Security is supposed to have multiple security checkpoints and parameters to verify the true identity of anyone entering the country. These parameters include biometric as well as fingerprint recognition software. However, the report from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General indicated that the digital records had thousands of sets missing,
“About 148,000 older fingerprint records that have not been digitized of aliens with final deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives.”
Overall, federal databases are missing fingerprint information for as many as 315,000 immigrants with final deportation orders or who are fugitive criminals. As a result, officials had no way of reconfirming the identity that the immigrants mentioned in their documents. Authorities had to either sift through physical records to verify the information or use their better judgment.
“As long as the older fingerprint records have not been digitized and included in the repositories, USCIS risks making naturalization decisions without complete information and, as a result, naturalizing more individuals who may be ineligible for citizenship or who may be trying to obtain U.S. citizenship fraudulently,”
To make matters worse, the department’s inspector general, John Roth, discovered that these individuals hailed from countries that the United States was very wary about. The countries were notorious for very high rates of immigration fraud or were registered as a national security concern. In other words, apart from the countries being involved in less than legal acts, majority of the individuals migrating from them were known to commit illegal acts in the country they settled in. The watchdog did not specifically identify such individuals who were made U.S. citizens; neither did it name the countries. However, it did categorically mention they were from “special interest countries.”
The problem surfaced after quite a few department employees working on the citizenship applications realized they didn’t have access to fingerprint records of these individuals, noted the audit. This happened primarily because thousands of records are yet to be “digitized,” which simply means the physical prints are yet to be scanned and converted into machine-readable format.
Such anomalies, “created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” noted Roth in a statement.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time insufficient information or incomplete records have enabled immigrants to gain citizenship. The now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI in the 1990s are primarily responsible for the inconsistencies. Hence the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security are struggling.
[Featured Image by Saul Loeb/Getty Images]