Incomplete Fingerprint Records May Have Helped Criminals Gain Citizenship

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DHS needs to digitize its fingerprint records, according to a report from the Inspector General's Office.

The Homeland Security Department may have granted citizenship to people who were supposed to be deported because the department's fingerprint records were incomplete. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may have granted citizenship to at least 858 people who had been ordered to be removed, but who were using different names, a new report from DHS' Office of the Inspector General. 

While USCIS protocol requires the adjudicator to check applicants' fingerprints, in both DHS' and the FBI's digital repositories, neither of those databases had all the old fingerprint records for those candidates, the OIG report said. Paper fingerprint records used before 2008 weren't digitized, OIG found, meaning about 148,000 fingerprints belonging to individuals who were supposed to be deported, or who were criminals or fugitives, aren't in those repositories. 

If adjudicators can confirm a citizenship applicant was deported under a different identity, USCIS is required to deny him or her naturalization. At least three people who were granted citizenship—after they had been deported under a different name—got credentials to do "security-sensitive work" in commercial airports and maritime facilities, the report said. All those people have since had their credentials revoked. 

DHS hasn't investigated many of these people to find out if they should be “denaturalized or criminally prosecuted,” according to OIG.

The incomplete fingerprint records "created opportunities" for people to obtain citizenship "through fraud," Inspector General John Roth said in a statement. 

OIG recommended U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs to fully digitize the fingerprints and that DHS "resolve these cases of naturalized citizens who may have been ineligible."

DHS concurred with the recommendations, and ICE does plan to digitize all available fingerprints, the report said. 

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