Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.
USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.
Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “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. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”
The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Justice has only filed 305 denaturalization cases since 1990.
Cissna adds, “The people who are going to be targeted by this — they know full well who they are because they were ordered removed under a different identity and they intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on. It may be some time before we get to their case, but we’ll get to them.”
We have already begun seeing the denaturalization of individuals who have lied at their naturalization interview regarding crimes or offenses committed. On August 8th, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ordered the revocation of a child sex offender’s rights and privileges as a naturalized U.S. Citizenship. Prempeh Ernest Agyemang, a Ghanian national, lied while under oath during his naturalization interview and stated that he had never committed a crime or offense for which he had not been arrested, when in fact he had engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor child. Having relied on his statements, USCIS granted his naturalization application. He later pled guilty to sexually assaulting the minor child.
Regarding the court decision, ICE Acting Director Ronald D. Vitiello said, “This order sends a clear message to individuals who commit any type of sexual offense, particularly those involving children, during the naturalization process – we will investigate you and seek you out to ensure that justice is done. ICE will continue to work with our partners at the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation – District Court Section to hold individuals responsible for sexual offenses, especially those involving child victims.”
The bottom line: USCIS is seriously cracking down on fraudulent activity, and no one not even naturalized citizens are safe. Do not under any circumstances lie under oath at the time of your interview. If you are later prosecuted for a crime or offense committed for which you have not yet been arrested, and USCIS discovers that you lied under oath, your naturalization may be revoked.