U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals who had been ordered deported or removed under another identity, a report released Monday found.
The individuals had been previously deported and had again entered the U.S. illegally, giving authorities a different name when they were obtained. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, these individuals were not flagged by the digital fingerprint repositories at DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation because paper-based fingerprint cards used before 2008 were not reliably digitized and uploaded into the repository.
About 148,000 fingerprint records of illegal aliens from special interest countries who had final deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives have not been digitized and uploaded to a repository, according to the report.
The FBI repository is missing these records because fingerprint records collected from immigration enforcement encounters were not consistently sent to the bureau.
The inspector general report describes the fingerprint records as “incomplete.”
“Incomplete digital fingerprint records hinder adjudicators’ full review of naturalization applications and may lead to USCIS granting the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship to those who may be ineligible or may be trying to obtain citizenship fraudulently,” the DHS inspector general’s office said in a statement.
The inspector general found out that at least three individuals who became naturalized citizens after deportation under another name had received credentials “to conduct security-sensitive work at commercial airports or maritime facilities and vessels. Since being identified, all have had their credentials revoked.”
DHS has also investigated “very few” of these persons to find out if they should be denaturalized or criminally prosecuted, the report noted.
“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” said Inspector General John Roth. “To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, USCIS needs access to these fingerprint records.”
“DHS agreed with our recommendations,” Roth said. “ICE has plans to digitize and upload all available fingerprint records, and the Department has told us it plans to review the eligibility of each naturalized citizen whose fingerprint records reveal a deportation order under a different identity. We will continue to monitor DHS’ progress.”