A House Republican introduced legislation to prevent the U.S. government from granting immigrants citizenship, responding to a report found that several hundred people slated for deportation were accidentally naturalized.

The bill, offered by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) before Congress departed this week for its pre-election recess, would halt any new naturalizations until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finishes modernizing its fingerprint record database.

A DHS inspector general report made public this month stated that at least 858 people ordered to be deported were mistakenly granted citizenship because their digital fingerprint records weren’t in DHS or FBI databases. Some paper-based fingerprint records weren’t consistently converted into digital form.

{mosads}However, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this week that the number of people mistakenly granted citizenship was actually closer to 750.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identified missing fingerprint records for about 315,000 immigrants who were criminals or had been ordered deported, according to the inspector general report.

“It is absolutely outrageous that these 858 aliens were able to defraud the government because these paper based fingerprints were not uploaded,” Culberson said in a statement. 

Johnson tried to downplay fears at the Senate hearing that the mistakenly naturalized immigrants would cause harm to the U.S.

“I have no basis to believe that any of them were terrorists or suspected terrorists,” Johnson said.

Culberson’s bill would further require DHS to refer cases of erroneous naturalization to the Justice Department in order to revoke the citizenship.

In the meantime, immigration officials could still accept applications for naturalization and conduct interviews.


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