The U.S. government mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 800 immigrants who had previously been scheduled for deportation, according to a Department of Homeland Security audit released Monday.
All of the scheduled deportees who were granted citizenship came from countries deemed high-risk for either national security or immigration fraud.
“The immigrants used different names or birthdates to apply for citizenship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services and such discrepancies weren’t caught because their fingerprints were missing from government databases,” the Associated Press reported.
“The report does not identify any of the immigrants by name, but Inspector General John Roth’s auditors said they were all from ‘special interest countries’ — those that present a national security concern for the United States — or neighboring countries with high rates of immigration fraud.”
The report did not identify those countries.
The information was released, by chance, just as a multitude of terror attacks ripped across parts of the U.S.
Roth’s investigation found “at least three of the immigrants-turned-citizens were able to acquire aviation or transportation worker credentials, granting them access to secure areas in airports or maritime facilities and vessels.”
Mistakenly awarding citizenship to someone ordered deported can have serious consequences because U.S. citizens can typically apply for and receive security clearances or take security-sensitive jobs, the Associated Press pointed out.
Because an American citizen can obtain a security clearance, serve in law enforcement, or sponsor people for entry into the country, these privileges could potentially aid terrorists into carrying out more sophisticated and deadly attacks.
Roth also found fingerprints missing from as many 315,000 immigrants that were given final deportation orders. 148,000 of those cases have not been updated and are missing digital fingerprint files.
This problem was created because digital fingerprints were not consistently added to records until 2010. However, the government has known about this gap since at least 2008.
“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” Roth said. “To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, USCIS needs access to these fingerprint records.”
Matt Vespa of Townhall argues this new information should be taken seriously and spark a debate about current security measures -- especially when it comes to the 10,000 Syrian refugees who have resettled in the United States.
Roth's recommendation was to review all outstanding cases and add fingerprints to the government's database. The Department of Homeland Security agreed and "is working to implement the changes."