USCIS to Establish New Office to Investigate and Refer Denaturalization Cases

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On June 11, 2018, the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), L. Francis Cissna, told the Associated Press in an interview that the USCIS is preparing to launch an office to pursue denaturalization cases [link].1

Director Cissna stated that the USCIS is hiring several dozen new lawyers and immigration officers to staff its new office. These lawyers and officers will review cases of individuals who were previously deported and subsequently used fake identities to procure Green Cards and, subsequently, naturalization.

Where the USCIS finds evidence that an individual procured naturalization through fraud, it will refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which can pursue denaturalization in federal court. Furthermore, the DOJ may also pursue criminal charges (including criminal denaturalization) where applicable.

Director Cissna explained that the USCIS has pursued denaturalization cases in the past. However, such efforts were not coordinated.

Director Cissna stated that he hoped the new office, which will be in Los Angeles, will be running by 2019. Although he did not state how much the new office would cost, he stated that it would be covered by the USCIS's existing budget. The USCIS's budget is funded through application fees.

The Associated Press report explains that the government began closely scrutinizing potentially fraudulent naturalization cases about a decade ago, “when a border officer detected about 200 people had used different identities to get green cards and citizenship after they were previously issued deportation orders.” The story then referenced the USCIS's “Operation Janus,” which had investigated 315,000 cases where fingerprint data was missing. We discussed the background of Operation Janus in a prior post [see blog]. In a follow up post, we discussed the first successful denaturalization that came as a result of Operation Janus [see blog]. Prior to Operation Janus, the article explained, most denaturalization efforts “focused largely on suspected war criminals who lied on their immigration paperwork…”

The article recounted that, since 1990, the DOJ has instigated 305 civil denaturalization cases. Regarding the new office, Director Cissna stated that the USCIS was “potentially [looking at] a few thousand cases.” However, he made clear that the goal of the new initiative is to target individuals who were “ordered removed under a different identity and [] intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on.” He stated that the USCIS is not interested in cases where there are minor discrepancies, but only in those cases where individuals deliberately used false identities to procure immigration benefits.

The goal of the new office for denaturalization cases appears to be to examine cases where individuals obtained naturalization by deliberately using false identities. Please see our growing collection of articles on Denaturalization to learn more about the denaturalization criteria [see category]. We will update the website with more information as it becomes available.


  1. Taxin, Amy. “US launches bid to find citizenship cheaters.” Associated Press. Jun. 11, 2018.
USCIS to Establish New Office to Investigate and Refer Denaturalization Cases