HAWAII'S ONLY WEEKLY FILIPINO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
AUGUST 4, 2018

LEGAL NOTES

Denaturalization Task Force Created

by Atty. Reuben S. Seguritan

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is creating a new office that will investigate cases of naturalized citizens who may be denaturalized or their US citizenships revoked because of offenses or violations they committed or failed to disclose during the application process. These include people who have used false identities or false names or committed fraud in order to gain citizenship or some other form of misrepresentation or failure to state whether they have been involved in crimes or charged for any felony in the application for naturalization. This denaturalization process could lead to the immigrantís eventual deportation from the US.

The announcement of the USCIS is in line with President Trumpís goal of removing as many illegal immigrants from the United States as possible, including those who have already gained citizenship and have lived and worked in the US for many years. The USCIS is in the process of hiring more staff and lawyers, opening new offices and expanding the existing offices in order to initiate and process denaturalization cases.

The first few hundred denaturalization investigations will review naturalizations that were flagged after old fingerprint records on paper were scanned into a government database a decade ago. The scans allowed immigration authorities to find people who had been granted citizenship despite having prior criminal convictions or deportation orders.

The formation of this new office by the USCIS to investigate and process the denaturalization of US citizens means that immigrants, even those who are now US citizens, will never be safe from deportation. There is no statute of limitations for the government to begin and process denaturalization cases. Hence, the government can investigate any naturalized citizen and can determine whether certain acts or failures to disclose information in the past would constitute fraud, or misrepresentation or some other ground to justify the denaturalization and eventual deportation of the immigrant.

Denaturalization cases used to be very rare. Out of the thousands of immigrants who become naturalized US citizens throughout the years, there were only an average of 11 denaturalization cases a year from 1990 to 2015, 15 cases in 2016, 25 cases in 2017 and so far in 2018 there have been 20 cases confirmed by the USCIS.

Michael Bars, the USCIS spokesman, told the media that the mandate is to find people who deliberately lied on their citizenship applications, not those who made innocent mistakes. However, it is not clear what the benchmark will be in order for the USCIS to determine whether a naturalized US citizen should be denaturalized for the statements made or failure to include information on the application forms and interview.

Other supporters of the move to denaturalize citizens state that the US is admitting too many immigrants. They cite the fact that there is a backlog of naturalization applications of over 730,000 over the past two years, from a backlog of 390,000 naturalization applications before this period.

Critics fear that the USCIS will act arbitrarily and include thousands of naturalized citizens in the denaturalization process because of errors and mistakes they made in the application process and interview, even if these statements were not made to gain an immigration benefit.

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REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at (212) 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com

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