DHS report unveils people mistakenly granted U.S. citizenship due to incomplete fingerprint data

September 21, 2016 - 

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that reveals that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 potentially ineligible individuals due to missing fingerprint records.

All 858 individuals originated from special interest countries who had been ordered deported or removed under a different name.

Neither the digital fingerprint repository at DHS nor the repository at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had all old fingerprint records of individuals previously deported, on file.

In the new report, “Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records,” OIG discovered that the records are missing from the DHS digital repository because paper-based fingerprint cards used prior to 2008 were not regularly digitized and uploaded into the repository.

Meanwhile, the FBI repository is missing records because, in the past, immigration enforcement officials did not always forward the fingerprints they collected during their encounters to the FBI.

There are currently 148,000 fingerprint records of aliens from special interest countries who had final deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives, that have not yet been digitized.

Incomplete digital fingerprint records impede adjudicators’ full review of naturalization applications and may potentially result in USCIS granting the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship to those individuals who are either ineligible or may be attempting to obtain citizenship fraudulently.

The report details at least three individuals who became naturalized citizens after having been deported under a different identity had obtained credentials to conduct security-sensitive work at commercial airports or maritime facilities and vessels. After being identified, all the individuals have had their credentials revoked.

Additionally, DHS has investigated only a few of these individuals to assess whether they should be denaturalized or criminally prosecuted.

“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” said Inspector General John Roth. “To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, USCIS needs access to these fingerprint records. DHS agreed with our recommendations.

“ICE has plans to digitize and upload all available fingerprint records, and the Department has told us it plans to review the eligibility of each naturalized citizen whose fingerprint records reveal a deportation order under a different identity. We will continue to monitor DHS’ progress.”

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.