By Patrick Barron, National News Writer
According to Department of Homeland Security officials, over 800 immigrants have been accidentally granted United States citizenship. They blame issues with the fingerprint records as the older prints had not been digitally recorded. Some of the prints were not even kept in government databases.
The 858 individuals were from “special interest countries” according to the DHS report. Special interest countries are those that present national security concerns to the United States or have high rates of immigration fraud.
Over 140,000 fingerprint records that are linked to either fugitives or individuals who have final deportation orders are not yet in the government database, the DHS report also stated. Immigrants who used fraudulent practices to gain citizenship using fake identities were not caught due to negligence of the department in updating their records.
DHS officials are investigating options to denaturalize or criminally prosecute the individuals involved. So far, two people have been denaturalized in the ongoing investigation according to USA Today. The department has not yet examined all of the cases.
As investigations continue, concerns mount over employment of some individuals in jobs which necessitate higher security. . ABC News revealed that at least three individuals were able to gain transportation worker credentials, which would allow them access into restricted areas of travel hubs. Officials are reportedly concentrating efforts on individuals who have acquired high level security-sensitive jobs.
The government has experienced fingerprint issues in the past. As far back as 2008, Customs and Border Protection noticed at least 200 immigrants whose new identification information did not match the original records, according to ABC News.
Although, the DHS actions could lead from ridicule from some parties, it is important to highlight its implications. Few topics have divided the nation such as immigration. The mistake is likely to make immigration the top issue in the upcoming presidential debates.
In the race to the White House, the two major-party candidates are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Clinton proposes strong immigration reforms, while Trump wants to a build between Mexico and the United States.
For now, the department looks to input older fingerprints into their digital database to prevent another gaffe. This case is another reminder of how technology, good and bad, can affect a country.
Inspector General Roth recommended in his reports that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office upload all fingerprint records that they have. This should appease critics who sought to point blame at the Obama administration.
The mistake revealed several vulnerabilities in record keeping and the processing of applications. Only time will tell if anything is done to look into these existing problems.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.
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