“USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not available.” So begins “Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records,” a report released on September 19, 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The report examines United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) vetting of applicants for naturalization.
How could USCIS naturalize over 800 criminals from nations with a high incidence of terrorism and immigration fraud who had already been ordered deported? Secretary Jeh Johnson has publicly described USCIS’ vetting procedures as “extraordinarily thorough and strong.” And former Secretaries of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff have assured Congress that immigration vetting is “thorough and robust.”
Apparently, the vetting of future citizens is not as methodical and painstaking as Secretary Johnson and his predecessors would have us believe. The Inspector General found that neither the DHS nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database against which naturalization applicants are screened contains all available fingerprint records. In fact, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has discovered approximately 148,000 old fingerprint records that have not been scanned into electronic databases. These records relate to deported aliens, as well as criminal aliens and fugitives being sought by ICE.
What the OIG report fails to mention is that all of the agencies involved in immigration vetting, USCIS, ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) have experienced biometric interoperability problems for decades. And fingerprint checks are only one phase of a multi-tiered vetting process that is widely acknowledged to be fraught with shortcomings.
The current vetting system is clearly broken. So one wonders why DHS senior leadership insists that their agency can access sufficient information to properly vet applicants from dangerous regions that have few record-keeping institutions. How many Americans must die or suffer grievous injury at the hands of alien criminals and terrorists before we admit the truth and fix the problem?