Handing Out Citizenship, Just in Time for the Election
Obama admin rushing naturalizations, increasing number of immigrants who can vote in November
The Obama administration is handing out overtime paychecks to federal employees to get immigrants naturalized as citizens before the Nov. 8 elections, according to a bombshell report from Fox News.
Fox News obtained an email unearthed and shared by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Johnson was looking into mistakes made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“It’s not the purpose of naturalization. It’s being used as a political tool.”
In the email, a federal field manager said the “election year” was her reason to ask for overtime to rush naturalization paperwork and ceremonies. After people are naturalized as U.S. citizens, they can immediately register and vote in federal and state elections.
“The Field Office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 cases as possible between now and FY 2016,” reads the email. “If you have cases in this category or other pending, you are encouraged to take advantage of the [overtime] if you can. This will be an opportunity to move your pending naturalization cases. If you have not volunteered for OT, please consider and let me know if you are interested.”
The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, well before the Nov. 8 election.
Johnson complained to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, that the federal government appears to be rushing through naturalization before the election, ostensibly to produce more votes for Democratic candidates.
"Your department seems intent on approving as many naturalization cases as quickly as possible at a time when it should instead be putting on the brakes and reviewing past adjudications," Sen. Ron Johnson wrote to Secretary Johnson.
Sen. Ron Johnson's committee was already concerned about a serious error that Citizenship and Immigration Services made: The recent naturalization of 858 residents by mistake. Some of those residents were actually due to be deported.
Many of those residents were from "countries of concern to national security," or with high rates of immigration fraud who had pending deportation orders.
Citizenship and Immigration Services did not disclose the names of those new citizens, or the time frame in which they slipped through the cracks. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a record of putting quantity over quality, according to Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.
"Now they are being told to rev it up even more," said Vaughan. "They're going to approve people who ... shouldn't get citizenship."
Vaughan said terrorist organizations want their members to get U.S. citizenship as it allows easier travel. Thus, due diligence is vital.
Vaughan added that she wants to know who the speed-up order came from: "Did it come from the White House?"
The standard waiting time for U.S. citizenship after getting a "green card" is five years. It's three years after marrying a U.S. citizen. According to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the other criteria are that the immigrant: be at least 18 years of age; be a lawful permanent resident (green-card holder); have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years; have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months; be a person of good moral character; be able to speak, read, write and understand the English language; have knowledge of U.S. government and history; and be willing and able to take the U.S. Oath of Allegiance.
Vaughan said getting a green card, which allows U.S. residency, is not a guarantee of citizenship.
Rushing naturalization procedures is bound to damage due diligence, according to Ira Mehlman, the media director for Federation for American Immigration Reform.
As for the rush to naturalize citizens before the 2016 election, Mehlman says immigration watchdogs have seen this movie before.
In 1996, Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, headed a project named "Citizenship USA." The effort was an attempt to speed up naturalization before the 1996 election.
The 1996 goal was as to produce as many as 1.2 million new citizens before the November 1996 election. The average number of new citizens in one year is about 680,000, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Back in 1996, Citizenship and Immigration Services was known as Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS. The goal of 1.2 million was ambitious, and some said it was due to a backlog. The accelerated pace drew a prophetic warning from Gore's staff, according to the New York Times.
"INS warns that if we are too aggressive at removing the roadblocks to success, we might be publicly criticized for running a pro-Democratic voter mill and even risk having Congress stop us," said one memo prepared by Vice President Al Gore's staff for President Bill Clinton.
By September 1996, tens of thousands of errors were made, and tens of thousands of ineligible residents and immigrants became American citizens before checks for criminal records were completed. The INS admitted there were 30,000 mistaken naturalizations in New York State alone, according to The Times.
Twenty years later, a Democratic administration appears to be accelerating improper or incomplete applications just before the election.
"It's more of the same," said Mehlman. "It's not the purpose of naturalization. It's being used as a political tool."