While U.S. citizens by birth can never be stripped of their citizenship, naturalized citizens do not enjoy that same security if their citizenship was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation. Sometimes this revocation is warranted. This past January, ICE filed a civil denaturalization complaint against a former Bosnian paramilitary member who engaged in extrajudicial killings during the conflict there. In years past, the uncovering of a former Nazi party member or sympathizer and subsequent denaturalization proceedings typically received positive headlines in the media, as the United States has no desire to become the safe haven for the world’s human rights abusers.
The Trump Administration has taken denaturalization efforts a step further. A new office in Southern California has been tasked with reviewing and referring cases for prosecution and denaturalization. The targets are people who have previously had naturalization applications denied but subsequently create a false identity to obtain citizenship. Concern about this type of fraud preceded the Trump Administration. President Obama oversaw Operation Janus, which exposed the fraud in citizenship applications; in 2016 the Inspector General found that at least 858 people had been awarded citizenship despite having been deported under a different identity. Now, USCIS believes the qualifying cases in the denaturalization unit could reach up to a few thousand.