USA: Why did DHS mistakenly grant 858 immigrants citizenship? – Lawstreet

Analysis of DHS’ mistaken granting of citizenship, identifying the main failure as lack of coordinated, consistent and digitized fingerprinting for identification purposes:

Immigration is consistently ranked as one of the top concerns for American voters every election year. After the failed Gang of Eight immigration reform bill, the attempt at reaching consensus on immigration has fizzled. Both sides of the debate have become more partisan in nature, making it very difficult to strike a deal and get a bill passed through Congress. Donald Trump started off his presidential race with a pitch accusing Mexican immigrants of bringing drugs into the country, whereas Democrats are pointing out that illegal immigration amounts to millions of individuals just overstaying their visas.

No matter the root cause of a broken immigration system, one thing that can always streamline the process of admitting new immigrants is by having a uniform background check system that is archived online for easy access. Currently, ICE checks fingerprints through two systems: the FBI’s Integrated Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the DHS Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). Although an agency may have different reasons for checking a fingerprint file, the archive has to be universal so as to make a search as efficient as possible.

Immigrants make up 13 percent of the total U.S. population as of 2014, according to the Migration Policy Institute, and that percentage only continues to grow. Critics point out that if the issue with immigration is that there are too many people who are here illegally, and that is due to overstayed visas, it may be an administrative issue on the federal government’s end that needs to be resolved. One example is a gap in digitized information that the government needs to archive so that it is easier to catch immigrants that may be of higher concern for the country.

Additionally, calls for border security may be issued in spite of not knowing that our federal government has an administrative issue to resolve. For example, one common misconception is the idea that Mexican immigrants are overflowing our southern border. The Pew Research Center found that since 2014, Mexican immigrants are returning back to Mexico more than actually immigrating to the U.S.

Proponents of immigration point out that immigrants are a huge economic boon for the U. S. as well, and fixing our information gap can be a good way to streamline capturing immigrants with criminal records as opposed to rounding up hard-working families looking to achieve their American Dream. Of the more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S., ICE has deported almost 178,000. ICE has also issued one million ‘detainer requests’ that ask local officials to detain and then transfer suspects to DHS custody. It is evident that our immigration officials are hard at work identifying individuals who are unauthorized to be in the U.S. and that our border is not as porous as some might believe.


The DHS was audited by its Inspector General, a routine check and balance on a federal agency tasked with enforcing the laws passed by Congress. John Roth, the Inspector General, has done a very good job identifying where DHS is lacking in terms of its ability to enforce our country’s immigration laws. If our executive agencies finish archiving fingerprint and other identification files, and streamline ways to access this information, we might have a shot at fixing our immigration system.

Source: Why did DHS mistakenly grant 858 immigrants citizenship?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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