The Justice Department moved this month to strip citizenship from five people convicted of child sex abuse — two of whom came to the U.S. on exactly the kind of chain migration the Trump administration now wants to eliminate.
One of the men, Ricardo De Leon, has admitted in court he was already sexually abusing a six-year-old child when he applied for citizenship in the U.S. in 2010. He was approved, even as the abuse continued — lasting through 2014.
De Leon, who came to the U.S. as the child of a sibling of a U.S. citizen, according to administration data, was finally caught, indicted in 2015, and pleaded guilty last year.
In another case, Christian Oribello Eguilos, who also came to the U.S. as the child of a sibling of a U.S. citizen, was charged with having sex with a child 10 years or younger. He accepted a conviction on four lesser charges of forcible lewd acts upon a child.
In both cases, filed last week, the Justice Department says the men lied about past illegal acts during the naturalization process. The convictions create an opening to go back and revoke their citizenship.
The Trump administration has made a special point of highlighting denaturalization cases, as officials seek to inject accountability into the immigration system.
“The United States has the most generous immigration system in the world, and the fraud and waste in that system is more rampant than recognized,” an official told The Washington Times. “The Trump administration is committed to stamping out that fraud, and one way of accomplishing this is by finding fraudsters and removing a benefit that is perceived as the ultimate benefit one can achieve in the American immigration system.”
The pace is picking up.
At this point in 2017, the Justice Department had filed three denaturalization complaints with federal courts. In 2018, the number is already nine.
One of those was filed earlier this month against Mubarak Ahmed Hamed, a Sudanese man who entered the U.S. on a student visa and later won permanent status through the Diversity Visa Lottery — another program Mr. Trump wants to end.
Authorities say Mr. Hamed violated American sanctions laws by shipping cash from his charity here in the U.S. to a known terrorist.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time that the case was proof that the visa lottery needed to be changed.
“Immigration is a national security issue, and a merit-based immigration system would better serve our national interest because it would benefit the American people,” he said.
Another case was lodged this month against Humayun Kabir Rahman, who authorities say had been ordered deported twice before, but was using a different identity when he applied for and won the Diversity Visa Lottery, earning permanent status in the U.S. He later applied for citizenship but concealed the deportation orders.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of Homeland Security, said it realized Mr. Rahman’s fraudulent behavior when it went back to rescreen old fingerprints kept in paper files.
That project, dubbed Operation Janus, is in the process of identifying 1,600 cases of people who were granted citizenship despite red flags that likely should have made them ineligible.
Making cases stick isn’t a given. Last year, 71 potential denaturalization cases were referred to the Justice Department, but just 27 of them were actually filed.
Officials said they have to look at the timing and level of charges able to be proved in each case and decide whether it meets the definition of fraud in the citizenship process.
The citizenship application and interview both ask applicants if they have committed any crimes that they hadn’t been arrested for. If they say no, but are later found to have been engaged in a crime at or before that time, they are deemed to have failed to prove they were of good moral character — a requirement for the naturalization to have taken effect.
Once a case is made, denaturalization is just the first step.
After citizenship is stripped, immigrants become legal permanent residents again. At that point, the government must still seek a deportation order to oust them.
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