Federal officials don’t compile crucial data, such as what terrorist organizations applicants are affiliated with or if they’ve ever illegally voted in an American election, on the form used to vet immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doesn’t collect any statistics on how applicants answer questions on Form N-400, which is used to screen immigrants, according to the agency.
“We have completed our search and no records responsive to your request were located,” USCIS wrote in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Mark Sauter, a co-author of a homeland security textbook and former investigative journalist.
“This data is critical, it should be aggregated, it should be analyzed,” Sauter told TheDCNF. “If the U.S. government isn’t doing the most basic form of data collection and data mining, then what the heck is going on? In my estimate, every day they fail to collect data from the N-400 is a day the federal government is not protecting us.”
The data could be used for a variety of purposes, such as analyzing how immigrants from certain countries or regions answer questions, according to Sauter.
It could also be used to show how many applicants were rejected – or admitted – from U.S. citizenship after answering disqualifying questions.
“Having those questions and the results on that statistic would confirm that U.S. law is being adhered to in the naturalization process,” Heritage Foundation homeland security expert David Inserra told TheDCNF. “If they’re not reporting that data than you can’t query it.”
He added that info could be used to confirm immigrants’ applications for citizenship are rejected for providing disqualifying answers, such as having ties to terrorist groups.
Form N-400 asks various questions, including whether the applicant supports the Constitution or if they’ve ever been members of the Communist or World War II-era German Nazi parties, which are included by law. It also asks if the immigrant is in any way associated with any terrorist organizations but doesn’t list specific groups’ names, such as the Islamic State or al Qaida.
“On both a symbolic and practical basis, this demonstrates a significant failure by the U.S. government,” Sauter told TheDCNF. “If the government thinks it’s important to use these forms to ask people if they belong to specific hostile groups, why not include the groups that are trying to destroy us today, instead of ones that we were worried about decades ago?”
Immigrants seeking naturalization also face an interview where USCIS officials try determining if applicants are affiliated with specific terrorist groups, according to Inserra.
“In both cases, you are responding to the U.S. government, and everything you say can be used against you and can be used later,” Inserra told TheDCNF. “The lying to an immigration officer can be grounds for deportation. If you acquire citizenship as a result of fraud – not just mistakenly, but purposely trying to lie and mislead – then that is grounds for revocation of citizenship.”
A USCIS official confirmed that applicants have answered that they have ties to terrorist organizations on Form N-400. The agency did not respond to a DCNF request asking if it holds data on naturalization applicants’ answers to interview questions.
Regardless, an interview requires relying on bureaucrats asking questions and interpreting answers, whereas “a form is a standardized way of collecting information,” Sauter told TheDCNF.
Inserra, however, noted that interviews allow a dialogue, which can be used to gather more information than from a paper or digital application.
“I don’t particularly see a reason why they need to add terrorism to the form,” he told TheDCNF.
Form N-400 also asks if the immigrant applicant has “ever voted in any federal, state or local election in the United States.”
“There are laws prohibiting [immigrants from voting] and that would be a disqualifying action,” Inserra said. “That would be really interesting to know if they’ve occurred.”
Collecting data from the application would allow federal officials to see how many immigrants applying for naturalization illegally voted in a U.S. election, especially since the question is posed in a neutral way that doesn’t suggest doing so is illegal.
“It’s interesting data because it’s not necessarily something you would lie about,” Inserra said.
President Donald Trump has said he believes about three million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election – a claim that pro-immigration advocates reject.
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