The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is primarily known for overseeing matters related to immigration and citizenship applications. But according to Associated Press, not too far from now, Donald Trump's immigration agency will denaturalize citizenship "cheaters" as a way to up the legality of people's presence in the United States. For those aware of Trump's anti-immigration agenda, the move is a grim but ultimately unsurprising one.
It won't be one or two arrests and denaturalizations, according to the USCIS director L. Francis Cissna, but rather a collective and "coordinated" campaign effort. "We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place," Cissna told AP. "What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases."
Here's how the USCIS will reportedly set out to do so. After an individual is approached by the USCIS, the case will then be shifted off to the Department of Justice where the individual could be denaturalized. In more severe cases, the individual can be accused of committing fraud in the United States. For someone who may not have extensive legal help in the country, having to find, fund, and appoint a lawyer to battle with the Justice Department is an understandably daunting task.
You also may be wondering how such a wing of government would be maintained. For example, how would it fund its operations? Cissna told AP that the agency's existing budget will provide the new denaturalization-eager office with the finances it needs. That budget, according to AP, is primarily consistent of immigration application fees.
Naturalized Americans — in other words, immigrants who were granted American citizenship over time — enjoy key social mobilities and rights that Americans born in the country have. They can, for instance, seek political representation by voting in elections. They can also have a say in legal cases by serving on a jury. If they wish to enter a particular building or facility that is reserved for specific identities, they can apply for a security clearance and most likely be cleared — that is, you know, if their backgrounds don't raise red flags.
With those kind of privileges, a naturalized American is able to live a seamless and dignified life. He or she has the power to navigate society without being constantly held back, questioned, scanned, or suspected. But if Cissna's office officially takes off, these privileges could come to a screeching halt for some of the people in America's Pew Research-estimated 19.8 million population of naturalized immigrants.
In addition to the denaturalizations, critics say that the USCIS' keenness on uprooting people points to a dangerous and hostile new normal. Muzaffar Chishti, director of Migration Policy Institute's New York University law school office, told AP, "It is clearly true that we have entered a new chapter when a much larger number of people could feel vulnerable that their naturalization could be reopened."
For those in favor of such an office, like Cissna, the idea seems to be about zeroing in on any remaining flaw in the immigration system — even if it requires denaturalizing an immigrant. But it won't be the first time that a Trump administration official or department conducted such business.
In January, under the Department of Homeland Security's Operation Janus crackdown targeting some 315,000 immigrants, the citizenship of an Indian man named Baljinder Singh was revoked while Singh was deported to India. Justice Department's Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said that Singh had "exploited" the American immigration system by using an alias to avoid being sent back to his native land.
Citing possible cases where naturalized Americans may have used different alternate names to bypass the immigration system, Cissna said, "The people who are going to be targeted by this — they know full well who they are because they were ordered removed under a different identity and they intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on."
"It may be some time before we get to their case," he added, "but we’ll get to them."