January 14, 2019 Articles

Due Process and Denaturalization

Naturalized citizens risk losing their citizenship without the ability to provide any defense at all.

By Cassandra Burke Robertson and Irina D. Manta

Policies restricting immigration and citizenship play a significant role in the current political environment. The implementation of the travel ban, litigation over DACA, and a narrowing of citizenship opportunities for members of the armed forces have all made headlines in the last two years. Along with those policies, the Trump administration has also significantly increased efforts to strip citizenship from individuals alleged to have gained it improperly.

Revocation of citizenship used to focus primarily on former Nazis and other war criminals hiding from justice in the United States. Now, through programs called Operation Janus and Operation Second Look, the Trump administration is reviewing the files of large numbers of individuals who gained citizenship over the last several decades.

The government plans to scrutinize the records of another 700,000 naturalized citizens and expects to file denaturalization petitions against at least 1,600 people. Government officials are looking for evidence of immigration fraud, searching for cases where individuals used more than one identity or concealed prior deportation orders before filing for citizenship. Such evidence may provide grounds to strip citizenship from those who allegedly gained it unlawfully.

In an article forthcoming in the NYU Law Review, we argue that the civil-litigation procedures employed in these cases are ill equipped to protect the due-process rights of naturalized citizens. Our review of the court filings revealed that Baljinder Singh, the first person denaturalized through Operation Janus, may not even know that his citizenship has been taken away.

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