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DOJ creates section for denaturalization cases

DOJ creates section for denaturalization cases
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that it created a new section in its Office of Immigration Litigation dedicated to denaturalizing foreign-born citizens referred to it by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The move has been described by the department as an effort to “bring justice to terrorists, war criminals, sex offenders, and other fraudsters who illegally obtained naturalization.”

In order to denaturalize a U.S. citizen, the DOJ must prove that their citizenship was "illegally procured" through fraud in their application. The DOJ said a "growing number of referrals" from law enforcement agencies led to the creation of the section. 

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The announcement also comes the same week the administration’s "public charge" rule takes effect.

The rule, which critics call a “wealth test” for immigrants, bars legal immigrants from obtaining public benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid. The rule could make immigrants who are “likely at any time to become a public charge” ineligible for permanent status or citizenship.

It’s unclear if immigrants who accept those forms of public assistance could face denaturalization under the new section.  

“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system—and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.

“The Denaturalization Section will further the Department’s efforts to pursue those who unlawfully obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are held accountable for their fraudulent conduct,” Hunt added.

The DOJ noted in its announcement that denaturalization cases have no statute of limitations. It then listed successful denaturalization cases the department completed before the section was created.