The federal agency that processes immigration applications is planning to open a Los Angeles-based office to identify Americans accused of "cheating" their way to citizenship, the Associated Press reports.
L. Francis Cissna, the director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced that the agency will hire dozens of lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of immigrants who are suspected of using fake identities to obtain green cards and citizenship through naturalization. In the past, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviewed such cases as they came to the agency's attention, and denaturalization was rare. This marks the first time the agency will have an office dedicated to identifying such individuals and stripping them of their citizenship.
The office will refer cases to the Department of Justice, and offenders could lose their citizenship through civil court proceedings or even face criminal charges. According to Cissna, the cost of the program will be covered by the agency's existing budget, and the office is expected to open next year.
Immigration advocates voiced concerns that immigrants who made minor errors in their paperwork might be targeted by the new office, but Cissna says that the efforts will focus on deliberate fraud.
"The people who are going to be targeted by this—they know full well who they are because they were ordered removed under a different identity and they intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on," Cissna told the Associated Press. "It may be some time before we get to their case, but we'll get to them."