Published January 24, 2013
The federal government fails to properly screen naturalized citizens who go on to commit major national security offenses, the country’s leading immigration restriction think tank says in a scathing report released Thursday.
There are a surprising number of naturalized citizens who have been charged and convicted of crimes such as terrorism, espionage and theft of classified information who, once released from prison, still are able to remain in the United States, said a Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report.
CIS is calling for a more streamlined process to denaturalize some of the country’s most dangerous criminals. The group says the current process, in which federal prosecutors bring charges against convicted naturalized citizens on a case-by-case basis, is too time-consuming.
“It happens right now on an ad hoc, limited basis,” said Jessica Vaughn, the director of policy studies at CIS. “We need to go and revamp the strategy in a systematic basis.”
The growing number of naturalized citizens – over 6.5 million in the last decade – has also hindered federal efforts to denaturalize criminals because of the sheer number of people granted citizenship, the CIS report said.
‘It’s surprisingly difficult for the feds to denaturalize these people,” Vaughn said. “If we’re not going to do a better job screening these people, we need to make it easier to get them denaturalized.”
Many minority groups in the U.S. have argued the opposite, claiming that the naturalization process is already too onerous and more restrictions would prohibit people who truly want to become U.S. citizens from fulfilling their goal.
“The process can already be a very difficult process and require legal action taken on the part of the person wanting to become a citizen,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Muslims have faced a large amount of discrimination since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the ensuing U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Streamlining the process of denaturalization could lead to even more discrimination as well as abuse from government officials, Hooper added.
“Once somebody is a citizen, there should be a very high standard to revoke that,” he said. “Otherwise this could lead to misuse by this government or any other future government.”