In June, the Trump administration announced the creation of a new office, within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, to pursue de-naturalization efforts against naturalized citizens. It will target citizens who committed citizenship fraud on their initial application — but where will the administration stop?
Beyond increasing animosity toward immigrant and refugee populations, DRIVE predicts this administration will expand the original scope of this de-naturalization effort and that the current Congress will ignore increasingly unprecedented acts toward these populations without consideration or compassion.
Denver Refugee and Immigrant Vitalization and Empowerment (DRIVE) is a community-based nonprofit whose mission is to empower refugees and immigrants to be their own advocates through civic engagement.
DRIVE has no confidence this administration will honor its own narrow commitment. The Trump administration’s carelessness with its rhetoric, credibility and regard for facts compels immigrants and refugees (and advocates) to mistrust the administration’s actual intent in this unprecedented effort to target naturalized citizens. DRIVE believes the following two administrative acts are examples that bode unfavorably for the tact and intended result of Trump’s de-naturalization effort.
The Trump administration’s effort to separate families at the Mexican-U.S. border was an example of policy crafted from an uninformed and uncompassionate position. Family separation was initially upheld by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and later admonished by Trump. This policy was implemented without consideration or foresight of the policy's effect. In fact, this blanket approach resulted in U.S. citizen families being separated. In addition to developing reports of sexual abuses committed against the detained, children continue to be held in facilities too closely resembling cages. Regrettably, this political tactic undermined our historical practice of welcoming immigrants to our country so they can pursue improved lifestyles and contribute to our growth.
The second instance, the Trump Muslim travel ban, stands as a reminder that the American public is dealing with a presidency that is both comfortable with decree via Twitter and confident that the newly conservative Supreme Court will accommodate constitutionally questionable acts. Initially deemed unconstitutional by federal courts (due to discriminatory practices against religious bias), on June 26 the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries. Critics of the travel ban noted that major attacks against our country such as the 9/11 New York attacks, the Boston marathon bombing, and the Orlando nightclub attack, were carried out by individuals from countries not on the list.
As with this travel ban, the Trump administration will continue to act with impunity by creating unconstitutional precedents whose actions are later blessed by the Supreme Court thanks to two arguably illegitimate Supreme Court justices (Colorado’s own Neil Gorsuch and still to-be-confirmed Brett Kavanaugh).
De-naturalization processes are not unprecedented in our country’s history. They target instances of application fraud and failure to disclose membership with a proscribed organization. The Department of Justice, since 1990, has filed 305 civil de-naturalization cases, as reported by the Associated Press. DRIVE's concern lies with the administration's enthusiasm for proactive de-naturalization because of this administration’s dismissal of protocol, transparency, disdain for freedom of the press, and impulsive policy making. We do not need to relive history to see where policy decisions such as this de-naturalization effort will lead. We all know better. We all can do better.
DRIVE is actively working to improve advocacy and representation for immigrants and refugees. During Colorado’s past legislative session, DRIVE Project, alongside the International Rescue Committee-Denver and Veterans for American Ideals, led the effort to introduce and pass legislation that grants resettled refugees and immigrants immediate access to in-state tuition in Colorado.
Thoughtful immigration reform is long overdue, but this administration is not up to the task and lacks the credibility to effectively reform this charged topic.
Alejandro Vera is the legal director at DRIVE Project Colorado.
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