DOJ Creates Unit Dedicated to Stripping Citizenship From Naturalized Terrorists, Other Criminals

February 26, 2020 Updated: February 27, 2020

The Department of Justice announced on Feb. 26 the creation of a new special section dedicated to stripping citizenship status from criminals who lied about their prior convictions on naturalization forms.

The unit will target “terrorists, war criminals, sex offenders, and other fraudsters” who cheated their way into obtaining citizenship by concealing their criminal histories, according to a statement from the DOJ.

“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a U.S. citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system—and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said in a statement.

“The Denaturalization Section will further the Department’s efforts to pursue those who unlawfully obtained citizenship status and ensure that they are held accountable for their fraudulent conduct.”

The DOJ says the move was motivated by an anticipated increase in referrals for such cases from law enforcement agencies. The move will join two existing sections within the DOJ’s Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation. The office already handles denaturalization cases and touts a 95 percent conviction rate.

Denaturalization cases require the government to prove that an immigrant’s naturalization certificate was “illegally procured” or “procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.”

In a prominent terrorist denaturalization case, Khaled Elsayed Mohammad Abo al Dahab was stripped of his citizenship. Dahab was convicted of terrorism in Egypt and admitted to recruiting for the al-Qaida terrorist group in the United States.

In 2018, the office secured the denaturalization of war criminals including Edin Dzeko, a Yugoslavia native was who was convicted in Bosnia of executing unarmed civilians and prisoners of war in the Balkans.

Earlier this year, the office successfully denaturalized Moises Javier Lopez, who concealed a prior conviction of sexually abusing a minor for years.

The office also goes after financial fraudsters. The litigation against Guillermo Mondino, who was convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S. Export-Import Bank of more than $24 million, resulted in Mondino’s self-deportation.

The section will focus on misrepresentations and omissions made on the N-400 naturalization form. The questions on the form ask whether the applicant has been involved in genocide or torture or if he or she had been a member of a communist party or other totalitarian organizations. The form also asked if the applicants have ever been charged with and convicted of crimes or served prison time.

Civil denaturalization cases have no statute of limitations, according to the DOJ.

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