Naturalization Errors Expose Vetting Problems

USCISLogoEnglish“USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not available.” So begins “Potentially Ineligible Individuals Have Been Granted U.S. Citizenship Because of Incomplete Fingerprint Records,” a report released on September 19, 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The report examines United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) vetting of applicants for naturalization.

How could USCIS naturalize over 800 criminals from nations with a high incidence of terrorism and immigration fraud who had already been ordered deported? Secretary Jeh Johnson has publicly described USCIS’ vetting procedures as “extraordinarily thorough and strong.” And former Secretaries of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff have assured Congress that immigration vetting is “thorough and robust.”

Apparently, the vetting of future citizens is not as methodical and painstaking as Secretary Johnson and his predecessors would have us believe. The Inspector General found that neither the DHS nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database against which naturalization applicants are screened contains all available fingerprint records. In fact, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has discovered approximately 148,000 old fingerprint records that have not been scanned into electronic databases. These records relate to deported aliens, as well as criminal aliens and fugitives being sought by ICE.

What the OIG report fails to mention is that all of the agencies involved in immigration vetting, USCIS, ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) have experienced biometric interoperability problems for decades. And fingerprint checks are only one phase of a multi-tiered vetting process that is widely acknowledged to be fraught with shortcomings.

The current vetting system is clearly broken. So one wonders why DHS senior leadership insists that their agency can access sufficient information to properly vet applicants from dangerous regions that have few record-keeping institutions. How many Americans must die or suffer grievous injury at the hands of alien criminals and terrorists before we admit the truth and fix the problem?

avatar About Matt O'Brien

Matthew J. O’Brien joined FAIR in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar Patty Bishop says:

    Outrageous! Build the wall deport illegals! Our President put our lives at risk!

  2. avatar Mary says:

    You have to call them , posting crap on here is not going to help…American Citizens have to be pro active over seeing the crap that is going on by doing the work..

  3. avatar Sandi says:

    So, when are they going to reverse this citizenship fiasco ? ? ? ? and deport them ? ? ? No mention of doing that!

  4. avatar SecBorders says:

    I thought the whole point of creating the big, new bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland “Security” after 9-11 was to prevent future terrorist attacks? But they have a big command center that is shown on TV with a lot of people sitting in front of computers and big TV screens all around the walls so we must be safe, right?

    I had thought that when the catastrophic 9-11 attacks occurred the need for border security and a more intelligent approach regarding who we allow to immigrate to this country would have been so obvious that the debate would have been settled and things would be a lot different. But here we are 15 years later, and more attacks here and in Europe have occurred but still a huge part of the American electorate thinks open borders are great.

    It’s hard to believe that so many people can be so uninterested in protecting their own lives. What’s even more amazing is that so many of the elites that cheer for open borders live and work around the New York City and Washington D.C. areas, locations that are at the top of the list as targets for terrorists. Amazing that people who are supposed to be so smart are this stupid. This is Darwin Award material.

  5. avatar Leland says:

    Guess who Hillary just announced was her “favorite world leader”. It’s Angela Merkel, the woman who told Muslim refugees that they were all “welcome” to come to Germany. And then when they came by the hundreds of thousands per month, suddenly Angela decided that every other European country had to take “their share”. It’s like the sanctuary city of Chicago, which has told all illegals they are welcome and made them eligible for every possible welfare program. Now that their finances imploded, they want the state of Illinois to step in and pay the bill.

    If you don’t think there is bias, one need only remember the 2012 debates and Romney’s statement about “binders full of women”. There was not a doubt what he meant. He said when he became governor he asked women’s groups to submit resumes of who they thought were qualified women. So Romney said he received binders full of women. But the media, and Democrats, went into full outrage mode, saying it was insensitive and a “gaffe” and would he be able to recover.

    It’s very telling to watch the meltdown by the left on the Miss Universe controversy. Now that Trump has pointed out, accurately, her sordid criminal connections in the past, none of which she denied when talking to Anderson Cooper, the press is going after him and never mentioning that her then boyfriend was charged with shooting his brother in law and a judge said she threatened him. Now, it’s time to “move on” because they don’t like that narrative. Is this not the same thing that happens with any talk on immigration. You can bring up any fact, like how immigration is exploding our population, and you get called a racist by brain dead leftist automatons.

    • avatar Ernest Mink says:

      Well said Leland! I totally agree 100 percent!

      • avatar Leland says:

        I used to call myself a liberal when it meant being for civil rights and the working guy. Now the screaming ninnies in the Democratic party look down on the working guy. They have become little more than the party of illegal aliens and criminals. Case in point, there was Michael Brown’s mother speaking at the Democratic convention and trying to cast her thug son as a victim. The only victim was the cop who had his life ruined even after the Justice Dept. said all the forensic evidence supported his story. I can’t imagine one person in law enforcement voting for Hillary. She is just going to continue the war on cops that began with this president in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in 2009 for not showing his ID. Our prez said “I don’t know all the facts, but I think the police acted stupidly”. In other words I won’t let facts interfere with my biases.

  6. Vetting Problems With Democrats

    Is not covered by MSM….no, MSM is wrapped around the axle on Miss Universe getting fat. Our country depends on this issue???? LOL