Clinton Administration's Own Verdict:
Damage From 'Citizenship USA' [INS] Can Never Be Undone
Last year the press revealed rampant corruption
and abuse in the Clinton Administration's scandal-wracked
"Citizenship USA" program, a blatant attempt to naturalize a
million prospective Clinton voters before the Presidential election.
"Citizenship USA" and its Aftermath
The abuses in Citizenship USA have been widely reported, and on April 28, 1997 the Justice Department's Inspector General opened a massive investigation into allegations of "mismanagement, misconduct, and illegality" in the program. Members of Congress have asked Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an Independent Counsel to investigate all aspects of the scandal, including the role of the Vice President--a request she has rejected.(1) In response to the avalanche of criticism, the Clinton Administration has repeatedly promised to tighten screening procedures around the nation and to revoke the citizenship of those improperly naturalized under the program. These promises have not been kept.
"No Assurance That INS Is Not Continuing to Incorrectly Naturalize Aliens"
On November 29, 1996, Doris Meissner, Commissioner
of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), issued a memorandum
on "Naturalization Quality Procedures" outlining reforms, to
be implemented immediately, designed to correct the abuses in the
Citizenship USA program. In March 1997 joint oversight hearings
before two House subcommittees, Commissioner Meissner categorically
asserted that, although "[w]e made mistakes in Citizenship USA[,] [w]e
have corrected those mistakes and put in place a series of new measures
to prevent them in the future."(2)
Small wonder the private-sector auditors stated categorically, "We cannot provide assurance that INS is not continuing to incorrectly naturalize aliens with disqualifying conditions."
"A Gaping Loophole" for Fraud
The INS did not issue regulations to secure the
integrity of its criminal background checks until three years after the
Justice Department's Inspector General and the General Accounting Office
warned the INS of what the Washington Post called "a gaping
loophole" in its procedures. The gaping loophole was the fact
that "[t]he INS, anxious to streamline the citizenship process,
began accepting fingerprints handed in by the applicants themselves
rather than performing the time-consuming procedure in its
The result was that aliens with criminal records could easily cheat the
system by switching someone else's fingerprints in place of their own.(6)
And the Nebraska Service Center is not just any INS facility--it's the site of the nationwide "Fingerprint Clearance Coordination Center" established in June 1996 to upgrade INS processing of fingerprint cards.
Repairing the Damage: "Highly Uncertain," Says INS
In the aftermath of the scandal, the Clinton INS
promised to revoke the citizenship of those it had improperly
This promise is also being broken. As a result of the Citizenship
USA program, 180,000 immigrants naturalized in 1996 did not undergo any
fingerprint checks for criminal records. Now that these 180,000
have become citizens, the FBI and the INS cannot require them to provide
their fingerprints for background checks. The INS has no other
practicable way to check them.
In politically abusing the United States agency and system that confers the gift of citizenship, the White House violated one of the most solemn responsibilities of government--and exposed the nation to new criminal predators in the bargain. When the scandal was exposed, the Clinton Administration promised Congress and the American people that the corruption and fraud would cease forthwith. They promised that criminals would no longer be admitted to citizenship. And they promised that those criminals already admitted would be found and stripped of citizenship. None of these promises has been fulfilled; the last, by the Administration's own admission, never will be.
1. "Hearing Set on Naturalization Process," Reuters, April 30, 1997. For general background on the program, see "Clinton White House Turns Foreign Crooks Into U.S. Citizens," House Policy Committee Policy Perspective, October 28, 1996.
2. Statement of INS Commissioner Doris Meissner before the House Judiciary Committee Immigration and Claims Subcommittee and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice, p.12, March 5, 1997.
3. Statement of Assistant Attorney General for Administration Stephen Colgate, U.S. Justice Department, before the Immigration Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, p.7, May 1, 1997.
4. Statement of Hon. Spencer Abraham, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Immigration Subcommittee, Hearing on INS Oversight: The Criminal Record Verification Process for Citizenship Applicants," p. 4, May 1, 1997.
5. "INS Says It May Never Find Naturalized Criminals," Washington Post, May 1, 1997.
6. Statement of Hon. Lamar Smith, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, Hearing on Safeguarding the Integrity of the Naturalization Process, April 30, 1997.
8. "Audit Faults INS Practices: Criminals May Still Be Getting Citizenship," Washington Post, p.A1, April 19, 1997.
9. Testimony of INS Commissioner Meissner, supra, at pp.11-12, March 5, 1997; letter from Commissioner Meissner to Sen. John Kyl, November 15, 1996, p.3 ("Any instance of improper naturalization is of concern to us. If it is determined that improper naturalization has occurred, we will move quickly to institute denaturalization proceedings.")
Commentary and Editor's Notes written and Copyright © by: LTC Michael G. Leventhal
Copyright 2000 Reproduction with written permission. Contact: Michael @Justice-Denied.net