Under past administrations, stripping people of their citizenship was mostly a tactic reserved for dealing with Nazis and war criminals trying to hide behind fraudulent identities. But now, the Trump administration wants to use federal dollars to create a specific office for denaturalization. Ordinary people are “fearful that mistakes made years ago on their past applications could be used to target them, take away their citizenship, and destroy their lives,” according to the ACLU.
On July 20, Representative Salud Carbajal introduced the Defend New Americans Act, a bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to establish a denaturalization office within the Department of Justice (DOJ). In an announcement made with the co-chairs of the New Americans Caucus — representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Norma Torres (D-CA) — Carbajal said that the Trump administration is using denaturalization to “unfairly target innocent American citizens” and to sow fear among immigrant communities.
In February 2020, the DOJ announced it would seek $200 million to establish a denaturalization office. Denaturalization, the process by which the U.S. government takes away the citizenship of Americans who are foreign-born but have become naturalized citizens, has historically been used “sparingly” by the DOJ, according to the media release. In most instances, denaturalization has been reserved for select cases, like suspected war criminals who have lied on their paperwork.
However, denaturalization case referrals increased by 600 percent over the past three years, and no parallel uptick in fraudulent citizenship applications occurred to justify the steep increase in vigilance.
The Trump administration has gone “well beyond” the normal uses of denaturalization, Representative Carbajal said in a statement to the Santa Barbara Independent. “It will only get worse if the Administration is able to dedicate additional federal resources to this outrageous effort to strip Americans of their citizenship. I fear that this office would embolden the Administration to retroactively revoke citizenship for individuals who have lived in America for decades, or even generations.”
As of this week, the Defend New Americans Act has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary; it has yet to go to a vote in the House or Senate.
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