The Importance of ICE Denaturalization Investigations

By Dan Cadman on February 19, 2018

Eoin Higgins of The Intercept has breathlessly written an "exposé" entitled "How ICE Works To Strip Citizenship From Naturalized Americans".

In the article, Higgins describes how intrepid journalists have managed to obtain a copy of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handbook that deals with how ICE agents undertake investigations into naturalized individuals with an eye to stripping them of their citizenship. The clear tone of the article is to instill paranoia and outrage that these agents hold no one safe from their predations.

Such poppycock.

The law is clear that there is a statutory basis, both legally and criminally, for stripping acquired U.S. citizenship from individuals suspected of having procured their naturalization unlawfully — for instance, through fraud, misrepresentations, or withholding of material facts about their pasts.

The statutes in play (which can be found at 8 U.S.C. Section 1451 for civil denaturalization, and 18 U.S.C. Section 1425 for criminal denaturalization) are the very same laws that have been used by America's Nazi hunters for decades to ferret out war criminals, strip them of their illegally procured citizenship, and send them back to Germany, or the Ukraine, or Poland, or wherever — something I wrote about in a series of blogs beginning in May 2016. Yet I don't seem to recall any general outcry against the work of this specialized group of investigators within the Justice Department.

More recently, the statutes have also been used against modern-day war criminals, torturers, and human rights abusers. They are also now being used to strip citizenship from alien pedophiles and sex criminals who withheld their crimes at the time they sought naturalization.

And yet, somehow, in some indefinable way, Higgins would have us believe that it's reprehensible ICE has actually laid out procedures for its investigators to follow. I strongly suspect, in the contrarian way that some liberals and progressives exhibit, that if ICE didn't have such procedures in place the agency would be equally vilified for exhibiting a slipshod approach to something as important as taking away someone's naturalization papers. For America's immigration enforcement agents, it's more often than not a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of existence.

One of the more absurd portions of the article can be found in this quote from a member of the private immigration bar:

"It's a manual for the worst outcome" with respect to investigation targets, said Alaska immigration lawyer Margaret Stock in an interview on Tuesday. That's not unique to ICE, Stock added — it's how the entire U.S. justice system operates. "Their objective is to inflict the most pain as possible, as efficiently as possible," Stock said. "They feel they're doing their job correctly if the government wins — not if justice is done."

In the article Higgins goes on to quote another immigration lawyer, Phillip Smith, with this amazing observation:

The handbook, said Smith, shows how ICE is taking the power of instituting procedures away from federal prosecutors assigned to those geographic areas. "We believe Congress meant to have the case evaluated by prosecutors in the jurisdiction, the community," Smith said.

In evaluating these remarks, it's important to remember that they have been made by lawyers who earn their money representing aliens and naturalized citizens accused of citizenship fraud, so exactly how neutral might we expect them to be? Not very.

What's more, with regard to Smith's logical non sequitur in which he claims that federal prosecutors are being deprived of their statutory role, let me say this:

It is also the duty of federal prosecutors to bring criminal cases to trial in U.S. courts for all violations of the federal criminal code, and they do so routinely. But those cases are not born in the minds of prosecutors, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Virtually all potential cases are brought to U.S. attorney's offices after having been investigated by officers from the agency of jurisdiction, whether that agency is the FBI, DEA, or, in the case of civil or criminal denaturalization cases, ICE. It is only at this juncture that federal prosecutors review the evidence presented to determine whether to go forward, decline, or ask for more evidence to be gathered. Thus, they do in fact maintain the role that was statutorily envisioned for them.

It is incredible to me that an attorney who has passed the bar exam could utter such an astoundingly uninformed remark, but then even some law professors have questioned the competency of many members of the private immigration bar.

And, on the larger issue of the propriety of conducting denaturalization investigations, I hold a view that is quite contrarian to Stock and Smith's views, and apparently the journalist Higgins' as well. My philosophy is simple:

If we are unwilling to protect the most precious gift we can bestow on foreigners — that of citizenship so that they can live among us as co-equals — against fraud and abuse, then as a people we have indeed lost our own sense of the importance of citizenship and its relevance to the social compact.