WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) — The U.S. government wrongfully granted full American citizenship to almost 1,000 immigrants in recent years because of a lapse that prevented federal authorities from discovering they were ineligible and under orders to be deported, a new report said.
The Department of Homeland Security on Monday publicized the report, which was issued Sept. 8. In it, the department’s Office of Inspector General said at least 858 immigrants were erroneously granted citizenship since 2008.
According to the report, titled “Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records,” those individuals should not have received permanent residency status because, under their true identities, they had been ordered to be removed from the country.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services didn’t discover the fraud because fingerprint records at the Department of Homeland Security and FBI had not yet been fully transferred from their paper form to the digital database and, therefore, didn’t match the applicants with their real identities.
“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” Inspector General John Roth said in a statement. “To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, USCIS needs access to these fingerprint records.”
“For example, OIG learned that at least three individuals who became naturalized citizens after having been deported under a different identity had obtained credentials to conduct security-sensitive work at commercial airports or maritime facilities and vessels,” the DHS said. “Since being identified, all have had their credentials revoked.
The report said there are still about 150,000 immigrants ineligible for citizenship — with orders for deportation or criminal convictions — whose fingerprints have not been added to the system. Some of those cases will be investigated by the end of the year, the report 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,” Roth added. “We will continue to monitor DHS’ progress.”