Could It Happen Here? Probably Not, but It Did in Canada!

By David North on September 20, 2012

Could you imagine Eric Holder announcing that he was depriving a group of 300 Arabs of their naturalization papers because they all gave the same phony residential address, that of "Palestine House"?

With the Arab Street, at about the same time, reacting in almost medieval fury to a clumsy and vicious anti-Muslim home movie created by some obscure bigots from southern California?

I would say "no" but that is exactly what has just happened in Canada.

The story both reflects on the courage of the Harper administration in Ottawa, the streamlined nature of some of their enforcement systems, and on the boundless stupidity of one immigration con man in that country. Here's what happened:

Many people from troubled areas in the world want a western citizenship to fall back on if the troubles in their home nation become overwhelming. So, without really leaving the nation of their birth for a substantial period, they seek a western passport (such as Canada's), while still really living in the home country. Sometimes, as in this instance, they get caught claiming overseas residence while actually staying at home.

More specifically, Canadian immigration officials noted that 300 Arabs had obtained landed immigrant status in Canada (equivalent to our green card), and then years later sought citizenship, each giving their Canadian residence as that of Palestine House, an ethnic organization (usually supported by the government) housed in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.

Since Palestine House is a social service and advocacy agency, not a huge apartment complex, immigration officers figured that the claims of residence at that address were phony, and Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Keeney announced recently that all 300 using that address would have their citizenship revoked. Not denied upon application, but actually revoked, a bold move on the part of any government.

The management of Palestine House quickly announced that it was not involved in this process, and said that an unnamed individual who had an office in the building, and who dealt with immigration matters, was responsible.

Presumably the individuals, largely Palestinian, did not know that hundreds of their fellows were using the same address; only the unidentified immigration consultant knew that, and his professional ineptness is hard to fathom. Didn't he know that immigration and citizenship officials, no matter how rushed, look for patterns? If he was determined to break the law, why didn't he say to his hapless clients "use the address of a Canadian resident who will, if need be, lie about your residence in the pre-citizenship years"?

One of the reasons why Eric Holder would not have swept away 300 citizenships in a single announcement is that in the United States the process of denaturalization is a judicial one, with all the checks and balances and delays of a careful court system.

Some of my older readers will remember how long it took the Justice Department to de-naturalize, and later deport, the various individuals who had served as Nazi prison camp guards during World War II; for example, the Department of Justice's press release, 58 years after the end of the war, on the denaturalization of one such individual.

This reminds me that there is a lively immigration system elsewhere in North America, one that sometimes handles its challenges rather differently than we handle ours.