Will Decades-Old Fingerprints Cause American Citizenship to be Rescinded?

Naturalized citizens in Illinois should be aware that the Trump administration is currently scanning old fingerprints from when people became citizens to catch immigrants who may have lied on their citizenship applications. The government is looking for people who had been deported and later reentered and gained citizenship under new identities. The administration has created a new task force of lawyers to find people that the government believes have lied on their applications so that the government can attempt to denaturalize them or strip them of their U.S. citizenship.

Effort Latest Hardline Move

The effort targeting U.S. citizens is the Trump administration’s latest hardline move against immigration. In the past, denaturalization has only been used in rare cases in which the people had committed fraud or serious crimes. Just 305 denaturalization cases have been filed by the Justice Department in the last 28 years. Thus far, 2,536 cases have been referred for in-depth review, and 95 have been referred by the United States Immigration and Customs Service to the Justice Department for possible denaturalization proceedings.

Who Could Be Affected?

Anyone who was previously deported and later gained citizenship without revealing the prior deportation or under a new identity could be denaturalized under the new push. The government is currently digitizing fingerprints from old cards collected from the 1990s. The fingerprints are entered for comparison into the Department of Homeland Security’s IDENT system to try to find people whose prints were collected during previous deportations to naturalized citizens whose prints were collected when they applied for naturalization. The government states that the denaturalization effort could potentially lead to thousands of citizens getting stripped of their citizenship statuses and then deported.

While the administration’s new efforts are targeted at immigrant citizens, it does not necessarily mean that everybody who is swept up by the task force will be denaturalized and deported. The administration does not ultimately decide who will lose their citizenship and be deported. If people are referred to the Justice Department for denaturalization efforts, they will be able to have hearings before immigration judges. The judges will ultimately be responsible for deciding whether people will be denaturalized and deported or allowed to retain their citizenship statuses and remain in the U.S.