Unpacking an Asylum Fraud Case That Contains So Much Absurdity

A Nigerian man who entered this country on a stolen British passport, fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship and ended up working as a federal immigration officer has, finally, landed in court.

Modestus Nwagubwu Ifemembi, 48, faces a single count of “unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship.” But this bizarre, two-decade-long chain of events raises countless intriguing questions.

First, the background.  

Ifemembi entered the U.S. on a France-to-Chicago flight in 2000. After immigration agents in the Windy City detained Ifemembi – who admitted to passport fraud – he was granted asylum. Approval was based on false claims that his name was “Karlos Mourfy” and a native of Sierra Leone.

Ifemembi/Mourfy went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley and obtain a law degree from the University of Oregon. In 2010, “Karlos Mourfy” applied for U.S. citizenship as Ifemembi. It was granted in 2011. In 2013, he was hired by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he worked as an immigration officer for seven years.

Examining this twisted trail of deceit and bureaucratic fumbles, Robert Law of the Center for Immigration Studies wondered:

  • How did immigration screeners fail to discover that Ifemembi was from Nigeria and not Sierra Leone when he applied for asylum?
  • How did USCIS fail to discover the fraud when he subsequently applied to adjust status?
  • How did USCIS (under then-Director Alejandro Mayorkas) fail to discover the fraud when it approved Ifemembi’s naturalization?
  • How did Ifemembi pass background and security checks when USCIS hired him, again during Mayorkas’ tenure?
  • What was Ifemembi’s portfolio as an immigration officer? Will all of his casework be reviewed?
  • Given Mayorkas’ “get to yes” approach to immigration benefits, did the agency’s political leadership overrule any red flags identified by adjudicators?
  • As Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, will Mayorkas ensure that Ifemembi is denaturalized promptly upon conviction?
  • Will the Biden administration deport Ifemembi?

Some of these institutional issues are beyond the scope of Ifemembi’s upcoming trial, but they are all pertinent questions that demand straight answers and appropriate action.