Monday, September 19, 2016

CLARIFICATIONS Re: AP's Article About Citizenship Given To 858 "Potentially Ineligible Immigrants" From Security Concern Nations

The Associated Press distributed an article today that is being prominently featured on Drudge Report and is sure to get increasing attention on the campaign trail. The headline over Alicia Caldwell's report is "More than 800 immigrants mistakenly granted citizenship." Drudge's headline included the information that the immigrants had (cue ominous music) "security concerns".

The article summarizes the press release from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General. Of course, that release - identical to the title of the eight-page report - is the most accurate summary: "Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records".

However, neither the article, the news release, nor the report itself makes clear several points. Arizona's Politics requested further information, and received some of the answers tonight.

First and foremost, the report gives no time range for when these 858 "potentially ineligible immigrants" slipped through the system and became naturalized citizens even though they had been "ordered deported or removed under another identity". They obviously lied about their previous deportation/removal order and used a different identity. They did give their fingerprints, but because their fingerprints from their deported/removed identity were not properly digitized and/or searched, they were granted citizenship.

The time range is significant because it tells us whether this is 858 people in just the past year, whether that is a per year statistic, whether it is a problem within the current Obama Administration's DHS, whether it is a persistent problem since fingerprints first started to be compiled nearly 100 years ago, etc.  Certainly, the impression that the Drudge Report wanted to convey is that this is indicative of the Obama Administration, and it is something that GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump is likely to seize.

Arizona's Politics learned from the OIG tonight that four of these "potentially ineligible immigrants" were granted citizenship before 2003, and that the other 854 received citizenship during the 11 years between 2003-2013. That obviously spans two Administrations and all six DHS Secretaries (the DHS was created in 2003, in the aftermath of 9/11), and is less than 80 per year.*

And, that brings another point into focus, which the Associated Press vaguely mentioned in the final sentence of the article: the two recommendations to fix this weakness are actively being implemented. The contract to digitize the old fingerprints is expected to be awarded by within the next two weeks, and the review of which of the 858 need to be prosecuted and removed will be completed by the end of 2016.

The audit also notes that three of the 858 were able to receive security clearances once they were granted citizenship. Those maritime and airport credentials were then revoked, although one other person has apparently been permitted to remain as a law enforcement officer. (page 6 of the report)

Arizona's Politics has asked for more information on those four individuals, as well. We will update this article as necessary.

*There are another 953 individuals who were naturalized after being removed under a different identity. However, they were not included in the main report because they were not necessarily from countries of special concern and it was not clear whether their previous fingerprints were in the database or not. It is also not clear when they were granted citizenship.

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