On June 11, 2018 the Washington Times published an article, U.S. launching office to identify citizenship cheaters, reporting that the Trump administration is opening an office to identify aliens who defrauded the naturalization process by concealing material facts in filing for U.S. citizenship and seek their denaturalization.
This is an important measure and one that enhances the enforcement of immigration laws from within the interior of the United States that will plug yet another gap in the highly porous immigration system.
This, as you will see, also has serious implication for national security.
However, generally most aliens who commit naturalization fraud also committed fraud in their applications for various immigration benefits that subsequently enabled the to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Because of the huge number of applications for various immigration benefits, more than six million applications for various benefits are processed each year by the beleaguered adjudication officers employed by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), many applications are adjudicated without so much as an in-person interview, let alone a field investigation conducted to verify the information contained in the applications.
This creates an invitation for fraud on a massive scale.
The Wasington Times article draws the parallel with this new effort to uncover aliens who lie on application for U.S. citizenship to previous efforts to identify Nazi war criminals who also gamed the naturalization process in order to secure U.S. citizenship to evade prosecution for their heinous crimes against humanity.
Naturalization fraud is of particular concern because U.S. citizenship provide the aliens with the veritable “Keys to the kingdom” as I have described in a series of previous articles and in my testimony before several Congressional hearings.
Here are a few reasons why citizenship is of particular concern and how some of the vulnerabilities must be addressed.
As the Washington Times article noted, aliens who acquire U.S. citizenship may be granted security clearances. I recently wrote an article about an April 2018 Congressional hearing on how Iranian Sleeper Cells Threaten U.S.
Immigration fraud, including naturalization fraud, enables sleeper agents from foreign countries to embed themselves in the United States in furtherance of their nefarious and often deadly goals.
Additionally, aliens who naturalize may legally change their names. In such instances, their U.S. passports only reflect their new names.
Criminals and terrorists can thus put themselves into their own “Witness Protection Program” concealing their original identities and gaining entry into countries around the world that might be aware of their original names and would never admit them if they knew who they really were.
However, when such an individual seeks entry with a new name, a name not known to border officials in that country it is likely that he/she will be permitted to enter that country.
The solution to this problem is simple and inexpensive- have U.S. passports reflect both names.
I raised this issue when I appeared at a Congressional hearing but no action was taken.
This is further exacerbated because many of these naturalized citizens have dual citizenship, they retain the citizenship and passports of their countries of birth.
Dual citizen terrorists and fugitives who defraud the naturalization process can travel easily around the world by using their U.S. passport to travel to an intermediate foreign country, let’s say Germany. They then conceal their U.S. passport and travel on the passport issued to them by their county of birth to travel to another country, perhaps to engage in terror-related activities. They return to Germany. In Germany they conceal the passport from their country of birth and return to the United States on their U.S. passport.
A review of entry stamps in their U.S. passport will make it appear that they spent several weeks in Germany when, in reality, Germany was just an intermediate destination on their way to other countries.
Alternating passports covers their tracks the way a smuggler drags branches behind him to cover his tracks in the sand in the desert.
The Trump administration must finally require that the U.S. passports issued to naturalized citizens reflects all names that these individuals have used, to thwart the tactic I have described above.
While it is encouraging that for the first time in decades we have an administration that is determined to not only secure our borders against illegal immigration but restore integrity to the immigration system to protect America and Americans.
The administration would do well to do more than simply attempt to identify aliens who secured U.S. citizenship via fraud. Denaturalization may be an involved process. It would be far better to uncover fraud in applications for immigration benefits that precede U.S. citizenship.
In order to qualify for citizenship, an alien must first become a lawful immigrant. In order to become a lawful immigrant an alien may have been granted political asylum or married a U.S. citizen or lawful immigrant.
Consider this except from the official report, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel:
Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.
In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.
Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.
My recently published booklet, Immigration Fraud: Lies That Kill also focused on the threat posed to national security by various forms of immigration fraud, including but not limited to naturalization fraud.
Let’s consider a few specific examples of terror suspects who engaged in immigration fraud.
The infamous Tsarnaev brothers Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamerlan carried out the deadly terror attack at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. They and other members of their family were granted political asylum when their authorized temporary period of admission into the United States expired, and they claimed to have “credible fear” that if they were to return to their native Russia, they would face persecution or worse.
Shortly after being granted political asylum in the United States, members of the family voluntarily returned to Russia. There had been no regime change and therefore, it must logically be presumed that they committed immigration fraud by making a false claim to “credible fear” upon which their application for political asylum rested.
However, no such investigation was launched into this obvious fraud.
Members of the Tsarnaev family were subsequently granted lawful immigrant status making them eligible to apply for United States citizenship.
Tamarlan was killed during the terror attack. Although he had applied for U.S. citizenship his application was held up when information was provided by the Russian government linking him possibly to Chechen terrorists.
Dzhokhar, however became a naturalized citizen. He is now on death row awaiting execution.
On January 23, 2018 the Justice Department issued a press release, Ohio Man Sentenced for Providing Material Support to Terrorists, Making False Statements to Authorities.
That “Ohio man” was Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, a native of Somalia who had become a naturalized U.S. citizen as part of his strategy to facilitate his travel to Syria.
I wrote about this case in two previous articles, A Terrorist and Naturalization Fraud and How DHS Ineptitude Facilitates Terrorist Operations. As I noted in the first of those two commentaries, Mohamud committed fraud when he lied on his application for his U.S. passport by claiming he intended to travel to Greece when, in reality, he traveled to Syria.
Finally, on January 16, 2018 the DOJ and DHS jointly issued a press release, DOJ, DHS Report: Three Out of Four Individuals Convicted of International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Offenses were Foreign-Born.
That press release noted that:
The report reveals that at least 549 individuals were convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016. An analysis conducted by DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born. Breaking down the 549 individuals by citizenship status at the time of their respective convictions reveals that:
- 254 were not U.S. citizens;
- 148 were foreign-born, naturalized and received U.S. citizenship; and,
- 147 were U.S. citizens by birth.
According to information available to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), since September 11, 2001, there were approximately 1,716 removals of aliens with national security concerns.
Clearly the Trump administration is on the right path, but more and bigger steps need to follow and follow quickly.
Nothing less than national security is at stake.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.