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Security gaps allow more than 850 ineligible aliens to get U.S. citizenship

An investigation by Department of Homeland Security inspector general John Roth discovered at least 858 individuals from “special-interest countries” slated for deportation used assumed identities to gain U.S. citizenship.

Roth's Sept. 19 report said records are missing from Homeland Security’s digital fingerprint database, which is used to screen citizenship applicants for prior criminal activity or outstanding deportation orders.

Fingerprints used to screen citizenship applicants were kept on cards prior to 2008, and DHS has “not consistently digitized and uploaded” the older records into its digital files, the report said.

Roth also said the FBI’s fingerprint repository, which is used to cross check citizenship applications, is missing records “because, in the past, fingerprints collected during immigration enforcement encounters were not always forwarded to the FBI.”

“About 148,000 fingerprint records of aliens from special-interest countries who had deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives have yet to be digitized,” the report said.

Roth’s investigation found “that at least three individuals” who became naturalized citizens under a false identity “obtained work credentials to conduct security-sensitve work at commercial airports or maritime facilities and vessels.”

The report said one individual had obtained a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), "which allows unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels.”

In an audit released Sept. 1, Roth’s office found the TWIC program was in disarray, and that “there is a risk that someone with major criminal or immigration offenses maintains access to secured areas of maritime facilities.”

The Sept. 19 report said the other two workers it identified had received Aviation Workers’ credentials, “which allow access to secure areas of commercial airports.”

The report said those individuals have since had their security credentials revoked.

The report notes that once a person becomes a naturalized American citizen, even while using a false name, he or she has “many of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens, including the right to petition for others to come to the United States and the right to work in law enforcement.”

Roth said one such individual identified in his report “is now a law-enforcement official.”

Roth said the DHS has “investigated very few of these individuals” to determine whether their citizenship should be revoked or if they should be prosecuted.

“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” Roth said.

He recommended that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency review the “148,000 alien files for fingerprint records of aliens with final deportation orders or criminal histories or who are fugitives,” and add those records to the digital fingerprint database.

Roth also recommended the immigration and citizenship agencies work on a plan to evaluate the eligibility of each naturalized citizen “whose fingerprint records reveal deportation orders under a different identity.”

Jim Crumpacker, the director of Homeland Security’s liaison office to the inspector general, agreed with the recommendations.

Crumpacker said the department is “undertaking a review of each hard-file copy” of the 858 cases noted in Roth’s report and will call on the Justice Department to conduct “criminal or civil denaturalization proceedings” in certain cases.

“The department is committed to combatting immigration benefit fraud and ensuring that immigrant benefits, including naturalization, are only granted to those individuals deserving under the law,” Crumpacker said.

“This includes continuing to identify and remove aliens who present either a danger to national security or a risk to public safety,” he said.