The Department of Homeland Security has circulated a draft plan that would severely limit its attempts to deport people who were naturalized via fraud. A copy of the memo from Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to chiefs of the three immigration agencies was obtained by the Washington Times.
According to the document, people may be hesitant to seek citizenship for fear of losing it in the future. The memo states, “Naturalized citizens deserve finality and security in their rights as citizens. Department policies should not cause a chilling effect or barriers for lawful permanent residents seeking to naturalize.”
As a part of federal law, denaturalization needs a court order and can be brought as a consequence of criminal or civil action. According to the memo, denaturalization cases should be limited to national security risks, serious criminals such as sex offenders, human rights violators, or cases of fraud “with aggravating factors.”
Under the draft memo, denaturalization cases that the agency is presently pursuing might be canceled. The memo is reportedly geared at undoing a Trump-era drive to find and remove citizenship for people who were improperly accepted, in some cases due to agency errors, but in many others due to criminal histories and fraudulent citizenship.
Director of regulatory affairs and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies and former policy chief at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Trump, Robert Law, said the language in the memo is so restrictive that “no one will be pursuing civil denaturalization cases.”
Law also stated, “By this policy, Mayorkas is saying that citizenship really is meaningless and that immigration fraud is rewarded.” Additionally, he claimed that he believes the only individuals who should be concerned about denaturalization are those who should never have been granted it in the first place.
The memo, which is not dated and marked “DRAFT” and “FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY,” has been shared and is awaiting a final decision from Mayorkas. It’s aimed at USCIS, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which together make up the country’s immigration infrastructure.
While the document does not prohibit denaturalization, it does impose a set of criteria to sift out certain instances, such as whether fraudulent citizens had counsel at the time of their denaturalization, whether they have relatives who rely on them, or if they have “medical issues.”
The draft proposal is reportedly not likely to stop denaturalization efforts against human rights violators and war criminals but will protect common fraudulent citizenship cases.