Hundreds of illegal immigrants from terrorist hotbeds who were supposed to have been deported were instead granted citizenship because Homeland Security didn’t have fingerprints on file to check their identity, the department’s inspector general said in a stunning new report Monday.
At least two of those approved are now being investigated by the FBI for links to terrorism, investigators said.
But in most cases, Homeland Security and federal prosecutors have let the illegal immigrants-turned-citizens get away with their potential fraud. Charges were brought in just two of the more than 800 cases identified.
One of the persons granted citizenship through the error-riddled process is now a law enforcement officer, and three others worked in security-sensitive fields — including two who worked in sensitive areas at airports.
“USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not in the DHS digital fingerprint repository,” the inspector general said.
The 858 cases involved people from so-called “special interest” countries, or from neighboring countries with major immigration fraud problems. Special interest countries are those places the government has identified as posing national security problems to the U.S.
Investigators late last year identified another 953 cases that also seemed suspicious.
The problem, according to the audit, is tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and criminal aliens whose files are so old that their fingerprints are still on paper cards.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that approves applications, wasn’t checking those paper-based files, so it didn’t know the aliens were ineligible or had been ordered kicked out of the country already.
The inspector general said some fingerprints have been digitized, but it identified 148,000 aliens who have been ordered deported but whose fingerprints are not in the IDENT system the department uses for its fingerprint checks.
Homeland Security leaders, in their official response to the report, admitted they’d bungled.
“As a result, USCIS was not made aware of information that may have affected the applicants’ ability to naturalize,” Jim H. Crumpacker, the Homeland Security’s liaison for investigations, said in a memo to the inspector general.
He said they’re they’re working to get more fingerprints uploaded, and hope to issue a contract by the end of the fiscal year to tackle the problem.
And the department has promised to go back and take another look at the hundreds of people it approved, to see if they can be prosecuted. That review is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.
This problem has been going on for years. According to an AP report, “The government has known about the information gap and its impact on naturalization decisions since at least 2008 when a Customs and Border Protection official identified 206 immigrants who used a different name or other biographical information to gain citizenship or other immigration benefits, though few cases have been investigated.”
What has really been done about it? Nothing. Are we really to expect something new?