The Trump administration is not only doing everything it can to discourage immigration of all sorts, it intends to launch an effort to identify naturalized American citizens it believes cheated the naturalization process and strip them of their American citizenship. The extraordinary process of denaturalizing an American citizen has occurred very rarely, with the Justice Department filing an estimated 300 civil denaturalization cases since 1990. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna, however, told the Associated Press that the agency is ramping up its efforts to identify citizens who, for instance, assumed new identities in order to avoid deportation and claim a green card or citizenship.
Cissna said his agency is hiring several dozen lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of suspected 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.”
While there is certainly a legitimate government interest in not allowing people into the country under assumed identities—previously this effort targeted literal Nazis and suspected war criminals trying to escape prosecution under assumed identities—the potential for the effort to be used as a means of intimidation and to find small discrepancies or errors in an individual’s naturalization paperwork is problematic. The Trump administration says it does not plan on pursuing deportations based on technicalities, but this is also an administration that is savagely separating families at the border as a form of deterrence to would-be undocumented immigrants.