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2006 Immigrants' Rights march, Los Angeles. Korean Resource Center, Creative Commons license 2.0

The Trump administration's total war on immigrants took another big step forward this week, as the Justice Department opened a whole new section devoted to stripping US citizenship from naturalized citizens who lied on their citizenship application forms. The DOJ is spinning it as an effort to rid America of the very worst, scummiest criminals who have wormed their way into Our Great Nation, no doubt due to liberals who hate America. The actual number of people who'll end up losing their citizenship is likely to be small -- in the hundreds, at most -- but the new "Denaturalization Section" of the Office of Immigration Litigation will help achieve some top administration goals: It will reinforce the narrative that immigrants in general are criminals and all pre-Trump laws were too lax, plus it will send immigrants the message that they're never safe -- not even after they become citizens.


As the American Immigration Lawyers Association points out, immigration law has long allowed the government to strip naturalized citizens of their citizenship if it can prove they covered up something that would have barred them from being naturalized.

For many years, the DOJ focused its efforts to strip immigrants of their citizenship on suspected war criminals who lied on their immigration paperwork, most notably former Nazis. And [US Citizenship and Immigration Services] and DOJ pursued cases as they arose, but not through a coordinated effort.

Since Trump took office, however, USCIS has gotten very interested in stripping citizenship from far broader categories of Bad Hombres -- not just the occasional murderer or drug lord the DOJ spotlighted in its press release about the new office, but also people who pose very little threat to public safety, like the nice Florida grandma who testified against her fraudy boss, eventually getting him convicted -- but who had accepted a plea deal as part of her cooperation with prosecutors. She'd been naturalized two years before prosecutors asked her to help put the boss away, but the DOJ said she knew she was a crimer when she applied, so now she needs to be deported to Peru so she can die of kidney disease. (As far as we can tell, her case is still moving slowly through the courts).

And as the Wall Street Journal notes, the administration has argued before the Supreme Court that any omission on a citizenship application, even leaving out a nickname or a speeding ticket, should be grounds for denaturalization. Not even Trump's Supremes bought that.

So with that caution in mind, let's see what the DOJ says about why it needs a whole new office to take citizenship away from horrible horrible people:

DOJ officials framed the creation of the Denaturalization Section, which will be housed in the civil Office of Immigration Litigation, as an effort to crack down on an increase in cases of those who have engaged in fraud, human rights violations, sexual offenses, and other crimes.

"When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system—and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals," Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a statement. "The Denaturalization Section will further the Department's efforts to pursue those who unlawfully obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are held accountable for their fraudulent conduct."

And just how vast is this wave of criminals who have fraudulently become citizens? Buzzfeed News notes that the DOJ has filed all of 94 denaturalization cases since 2017. The DOJ press release announcing the Denaturalization Section identifies some very bad people who lied on their naturalization applications and have been denaturalized, like two terrorist guys, three sex crimers, a couple war criminals, and others. A whopping ten of them, including one guy who funded terrorist groups in the middle East and was not Oliver North. Fox News dutifully included a bulleted list of those bad guys in its glowing story on the new office. The nice grandma from Florida was not among them.

We're going to go way out on a limb and guess that those ten baddies would have been prosecuted anyway, even without the much ballyhooed efforts to digitize old fingerprint records (started under Barack Obama) or the 2018 formation of a "denaturalization task force." The DOJ press release is happy to let you assume those ten would have otherwise been hiding out waiting to kill us all, but nah, it doesn't say any of the new efforts to comb through hundreds of thousands of old naturalizations have spotted even a single terrorist.

But they COULD. Maybe you should be more afraid.

Even the Wall Street Journal strikes a skeptical note about the figures DOJ is pushing to justify the new office:

Since 2017, the Justice Department has filed 94 denaturalization cases and has seen a 600% increase in referrals from other law-enforcement agencies, a spokesman said, not specifying how many.

Notice too that's 94 referrals, not 94 successful prosecutions and denaturalizations. And did the referrals go from 2 to 12? Maybe 8 to 48? Even a dozen to 72? If there's no big number to brag about, maybe there's no there there.

But the point isn't really to deport a bunch of people. The point is to keep fear of immigrants alive in an election year. You just need to keep Fox News happy by pointing to outlier cases and waving a bloody shirt.

Migration Policy Institute analyst Sarah Pierce told Buzzfeed News what the real deal is here:

While this effort may result in relatively few denaturalizations, it shows that the administration's desire to keep immigrants 'looking over their shoulder' extends past legalization and even naturalization. If you weren't born here, this administration is trying to keep you uncomfortable.

As long as immigrants are scared and Trump supporters feel like they're being protected from hordes of rape-murderers (who they nonetheless fear), all is well.

[BuzzFeed News / Justice Department press release / WSJ / ACLU / AILA / Photo by Sharon Myers, Korean Resource Center, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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