In an "unprecedented" effort to revoke citizenship, the Trump administration is analyzing decades-old records of fingerprints from thousands of legally documented immigrants to identify anyone "who may have lied or falsified information on their naturalization forms," according to the Washington Post.
Critics quickly denounced the new program as "alarming," "disgusting" and "madness." Citing a memo issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director L. Francis Cissna, the Post explains that the program could lead to the deportation of naturalized U.S. citizens:
Homeland Security investigators are digitizing fingerprints collected in the 1990s and comparing them with more recent prints provided by foreigners who apply for legal residency and U.S. citizenship. If decades-old fingerprints gathered during a deportation match those of someone who did not disclose that deportation on their naturalization application or used a different name, that individual could be targeted by a new Los Angeles-based investigative division.
Violators will be referred to federal courts where they could be stripped of citizenship and potentially deported. ...According to the latest USCIS data, 2,536 naturalization cases have prompted in-depth reviews so far, and of those, 95 cases have been referred to the Justice Department. Those numbers are expected to rise as additional fingerprints are digitized by ICE, but only a federal judge—not USCIS—has the authority to revoke citizenship.
News of the program comes amid mounting concerns about the behavior of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents under the Trump administration. ICE has been criticized for terrorizing immigrant communities with "military-style raids," separating children from their parents at the border, and even detaining U.S. citizens for speaking Spanish in public. Earlier this week, ICE detained a legal permanent resident outside his home in California.
Jose Luis Garcia, a 62-year-old grandfather who moved to the United States with his family nearly 50 years ago, "was watering his lawn and having his morning coffee outside his home in the Arleta neighborhood of San Fernando Valley when ICE agents put him in handcuffs and detained him," The Mercury News reports.
"Databases reveal that Mr. Garcia has past criminal convictions that make him amenable to removal from the United States," ICE said in a statement. "Mr. Garcia is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings, where an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will determine whether or not he has a lawful basis to remain in the United States."
His daughter, Natalie Garcia, told the newspaper that her father has a misdemeanor conviction from a domestic dispute that occurred 18 years ago and that he completed his sentence by enrolling in anger management classes and reporting to probation.
The elder Garcia's detention is "part of a pattern that we've seen of rounding up people who are longstanding members of our community who have family here and settled lives here and their lives are turned upside down because they may have committed some misdemeanor deep in their past," said Michael Kaufman, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California who is not representing the family.
"This is...a misdemeanor from two decades ago for which he's completed his sentence," Kaufman added. "From what we know of this story, this is not an individual that presents a threat to anyone."