The DoJ announced in a Wednesday news release that the department’s Civil Division’s Office of Immigration Litigation had recently created the Denaturalization Section in an effort to advance its “commitment to bring justice to terrorists, war criminals, sex offenders, and other fraudsters who illegally obtained naturalization.”
“When a terrorist or sex offender becomes a US citizen under false pretenses, it is an affront to our system — and it is especially offensive to those who fall victim to these criminals,” Jody Hunt, assistant attorney general for the DoJ’s Civil Division, said in the release. “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.”
According to the department, Denaturalization Section attorneys will have to prove that the defendant in question either “illegally procured” citizenship or was naturalized after omitting a disqualifying fact.
The release went on to list of several DoJ cases - ranging from terrorism to sex offenses - that have led to denaturalization of immigrants, including that of Khaled Abu al-Dahab - an Egyptian man who was naturalized as a US citizen in 1997 but was convicted of terrorism offenses in his home country and admitted to recruiting for al Qaeda in the US.
“The defendant was denaturalized while in Egypt, stripped of his passport, and prevented from returning to the United States,” the release noted.
The unit’s formation comes alongside the Trump administration’s ramped up battle against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.
On February 26 - the same day as the DoJ announcement - the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled that the department was within legal bounds to withhold funding from states and cities until they comply with US immigration enforcement.
The decision overturned a lower court’s ruling that, in 2017, prevented the federal government’s attempt to withhold the funds, which came in the form of grants from the US Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
“These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and
policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations,” the court’s opinion read. “But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight.”
It’s possible that the matter will be heard before the Supreme Court due to the differing rulings.