Under the Trump administration, even naturalized citizens are now a target. The government agency that oversees immigration applications is hiring lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of immigrants suspected of obtaining citizenship through fake identities or other false information on their applications. Cases would be referred to the Department of Justice, where offenders could lose their citizenship or legal status.
“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” L. Francis Cissna, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in an interview with the Associated Press last month. “What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”
The small scale of this effort belies its significance. As a country, the United States makes few distinctions between naturalized citizens and their native-born counterparts. The naturalization process, which includes long-term residents with deep ties to the U.S., is assumed to be permanent. This new task force on denaturalization throws that permanence into question, bringing suspicion on anyone who received their citizenship through means other than birth.
There’s no guarantee this effort will stay confined to cases of cheating and fraud. The Trump administration has shown, in its drive to criminalize asylum-seekers, that the existing processes for seeking legal status can effectively be criminalized at any time. The president’s willingness to demonize all immigrants as intruders on American soil offers little comfort.
The move to denaturalize some citizens is just the latest in a larger drive by Republicans—led by key figures in the Trump White House—to preserve a white majority in American politics. At the state level, Republican lawmakers take steps to protect GOP districts, dampen voter turnout, and otherwise hinder participation, which raises the chances of Republican victories for Congress and the White House. In turn, Republicans in Washington nominate and confirm judges who give voter suppression the cover of law, giving incentive to new efforts at restriction and disenfranchisement. What Donald Trump brings is an explicit effort to write nonwhite immigrants out of the body politic, removing as many as possible and presenting the rest as a suspect class. [Continue reading…]