Errors in Fingerprint Records Allow Easier Access to Citizenship

Errors in Fingerprint Records Allow Easier Access to Citizenship

A fault in the system seems to have given some the opportunity to become US citizens when it should not have been possible. A lucky break for some, the news comes as a surprise to officials who were unaware of the problem. Apparently, the source of the problem is the record keeping of fingerprints.

Especially considering terrorist threats, it is very important who enters the United States. Even more important is who becomes a US citizen.

Missing Fingerprint Records

A report released this Monday by the Department of Homeland Security shows the magnitude of the situation. It looks like the Department granted citizenship to a number of hundreds of people who should not have qualified. Those people had been deported or removed using different names. So they should not have had access to US citizenship. The mistake was possible due to errors in the way the Department of Homeland Security keeps fingerprint records.

The report came from the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. It found almost 900 people that obtained US citizenship. Apparently, there is no large database that contains all the fingerprint records of individuals that had an order for deportation. Neither with the Department of Homeland Security, nor with the FBI. So almost a thousand people slipped through the cracks of the system.

Almost 150,000 fingerprint records that were older were not converted to digital format or were not included in the databases as they were being set up. Also, in other situations, the immigration officials that fingerprinted people failed to forward the data to the FBI.

John Roth is the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. He said that “This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud.”

More Security at the Border

The report comes at a time when the country’s immigration policy is under question. Congress, Homeland Security as well as intelligence officials are looking more closely at the issue. Recently, they expressed concerns about how individuals that have ties to terrorist organizations can gain entry to the United States. This closer examination started after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and after the shooting in San Bernardino, California in December.

After these attacks, President Barack Obama signed new legislation that led to a tightening of visa waivers. The move made it harder for travelers to gain entry to the US via Europe if they held dual citizenship. The countries that were a concern were Iran, Sudan, Iraq and Syria. The same rule applied if they had just visited the countries in the past five years.

Right now there are about 38 countries, mostly European countries, that are part of the visa waiver program. It allows their citizens the right to visit the United States for 90 days or less, without needing a visa.

Homeland Security officials are also undertaking an extensive review of what is known less formally as the fiancé visa. The K-1 visa allowed Tashfeen Malik entry into the United States. She was one of the attackers at San Bernadino, California.


Image source: Wikipedia