WASHINGTON The administration of US President Donald Trump is launching an unprecedented effort to strip US citizenship from thousands of immigrants who may have lied or falsified information on their naturalization forms.
The US government agency that oversees immigration applications will open an office in Los Angeles, California, that will focus on identifying individuals who are suspected of cheating to get their American citizenship and seek to deport them.
L. Francis Cissna, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS ), told The Associated Press in an interview that his agency is hiring several dozen lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of immigrants who were ordered deported and are suspected of using fake identities to later get green cards and citizenship through naturalization.
Cissna said the cases would be referred to the Department of Justice, whose attorneys could then seek to remove the immigrants' citizenship in civil court proceedings. In some cases, government attorneys could bring criminal charges related to fraud.
"We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place," Cissna said. "What we're looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases."
Cissna said violators will be referred to federal courts where they can be stripped of citizenship and potentially deported. Only an immigration judge - not USCIS - has the authority to revoke citizenship.
The push comes as the Trump administration has been cracking down on illegal immigration and taking steps to reduce legal immigration to the United States.
The US government began looking at potentially fraudulent naturalization cases a decade ago when a border officer detected about 200 people had used different identities to get green cards and citizenship after they were previously issued deportation orders.
In September 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security discovered that more than 800 immigrants had been ordered deported under one identity but became U.S. citizens under another.
Revoking citizenship, a process known as denaturalization, has long been treated as a rare and relatively drastic measure by immigration authorities, reserved for foreigners who commit egregious crimes, acts of fraud, or pose a threat to national security, most notably former Nazis.
Since 1990, the Department of Justice has filed 305 civil denaturalization cases, according to statistics obtained by an immigration attorney in Kansas who has defended immigrants in these cases.
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