A United States government agency mistakenly offered citizenship to over 800 immigrants who had been ordered to leave the country.
This information comes from a report this week by the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The inspector general, John Roth, has the job of investigating problems at the agency.
Here is what happened, according to the report:
At least 858 immigrants had been ordered expelled or removed from the United States. But they then requested citizenship under a different name, or provided a different date of birth.
When applying for citizenship, foreigners are required to provide fingerprints. But the fingerprints from their earlier immigration records were not saved on computers.
That meant the government could not find the prints from the earlier records. It did not find out about the removal orders and, as a result, approved people for citizenship who should have been rejected, Inspector General Roth said.
Computer records, unlike paper records, can be searched quickly.
“This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud,” Roth said.
Roth did not identify any of the immigrants who gained citizenship through fraud. But he said they were all from “special interest countries.” Those are nations that present a national security concern for the United States, or have high rates of immigration fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security said it has long had a problem with paper fingerprint records that have not been made part of computer records. The department said it is working to add those paper records to computers and will examine “every file” listed as possible fraud.
But it said that not all people who asked for citizenship without computer fingerprint records were offered citizenship.
Businessman Donald Trump is the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. He has promised to tighten rules for people seeking to immigrate to the United States.
Trump made a statement that connected the inspector general’s report to the terrorist attacks last weekend. The attacks included a bombing and attempted bombings in New York and New Jersey. In addition, a man armed with a knife attacked people at a shopping center in Minnesota.
There were injuries, but nobody was killed except the person who Minnesota police said carried out the knife attacks.
Trump said the inspector general’s report “puts this weekend’s attacks in a broader perspective.”
That is why Trump said he wants “extreme vetting for immigrants from troubled parts of the world where terrorists live and train.” Vetting are the investigations done when someone seeks citizenship, jobs and loans.
Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. Clinton said she has long supported “tough vetting for making sure that we don’t let people into this country” who might represent a danger.
“But let us remember, there are millions of naturalized citizens from all over the world,” she said. “There are millions of law-abiding peaceful Muslim-Americans.”
I’m Bruce Alpert.
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