Cit­i­zen­ship ap­proved for im­prop­erly in­ves­ti­gated im­mi­grants

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Some 175 im­mi­grants were ap­proved for cit­i­zen­ship even though their names weren’t prop­erly run through the FBI’s name-check data­bases, po­ten­tially miss­ing red flags that may have dis­qual­i­fied them from nat­u­ral­iza­tion, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­mit­ted this week­end.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials blamed com­puter code for the prob­lem, which af­fected about 15,000 ap­pli­ca­tions in to­tal.

The prob­lem was sig­nif­i­cant enough that the gov­ern­ment halted all nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­monies al­ready in the pipe­line and banned U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices of­fi­cers from ap­prov­ing new cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions be­gin­ning on Nov. 29, when of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged the prob­lem in an in­ter­nal email that was later ob­tained by House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte.

In the in­ter­nal email, Daniel M. Re­naud, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor at U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, or­dered all of­fi­cers “not to ap­prove or oath any nat­u­ral­iza­tion cases in ELIS,” re­fer­ring

to the Elec­tronic Im­mi­gra­tion Sys­tem that serves as the case man­age­ment sys­tem for pro­cess­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.

“At this point we are not con­fi­dent that proper FBI Name Checks have been run on cer­tain ELIS cases. At this point we are un­cer­tain of the scope of the prob­lem,” he wrote.

It was an­other em­bar­rass­ing black eye for USCIS, which ear­lier this year ad­mit­ted it had granted cit­i­zen­ship to hun­dreds of crim­i­nals who should have been barred but who es­caped no­tice be­cause the agency wasn’t prop­erly check­ing their fin­ger­prints. Tens of thou­sands of fin­ger­prints re­main in pa­per files, and the agency was only check­ing elec­tronic records, an in­ter­nal au­dit said.

Mr. Good­latte said he was stunned that USCIS didn’t no­tify him, as the chair­man of the com­mit­tee that over­sees the agency, of the new prob­lem. He only learned about it af­ter a source pro­vided him with Mr. Re­naud’s in­ter­nal email.

Home­land Se­cu­rity said the prob­lem arose as part of the on­go­ing push to dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing of cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions.

Some 15,000 ap­pli­ca­tions were af­fected, in­clud­ing about 175 peo­ple who had their ap­pli­ca­tions ap­proved de­spite not hav­ing an ac­cu­rate name check, the depart­ment said. Those per­sons have all had their names re­sub­mit­ted to the FBI for an up­date.

FBI name checks are a crit­i­cal part of the ap­pli­ca­tion process, giv­ing im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers a look at po­ten­tial crim­i­nal his­to­ries or other na­tional se­cu­rity red flags that would make some­one in­el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship.

Mr. Good­latte de­manded USCIS de­tail when it dis­cov­ered the prob­lem and how many cases were af­fected, and said the agency should take steps to strip cit­i­zen­ship from any­one who shouldn’t have been ap­proved.

Home­land Se­cu­rity spokesman Aaron Ro­driguez said the depart­ment will re­spond di­rectly to Mr. Good­latte, but in­sisted of­fi­cials take the back­ground process se­ri­ously.

The spokesman said FBI name checks are one of a num­ber of steps in the process, each aimed at weed­ing out bad cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions. But Mr. Ro­driguez said the name checks are a crit­i­cal part of the process, and must be com­pleted be­fore some­one is cleared to come in for a nat­u­ral­iza­tion in­ter­view.

“Nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­ca­tions rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of USCIS’ caseload, and as with any ma­jor sys­tem change, some chal­lenges were ex­pected as we moved to elec­tronic pro­cess­ing of the N-400. We will con­tinue to em­ploy mul­ti­ple qual­ity con­trols to en­sure the in­tegrity of the nat­u­ral­iza­tion process,” the spokesman said.

In his email to em­ploy­ees, Mr. Re­naud said of­fi­cers were al­lowed to con­tinue con­duct­ing cit­i­zen­ship in­ter­views but could not is­sue a fi­nal ap­proval. In emer­gency cases where the case must be de­cided or an oath ad­min­is­tered, he said, of­fi­cers needed to get writ­ten con­fir­ma­tion from a re­gional of­fice that the FBI in­for­ma­tion in the sys­tem was cor­rect.

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