Ask Garry: What Is Denaturalization, and Who Is At Risk?

In US Immigration Law, the process of becoming a US citizen is called naturalization. Sometimes, the government tries to take citizenship away from someone who has been approved for naturalization. The process is called denaturalization.


The Trump Administration has been denaturalizing US citizens at an alarming rate under initiatives called Operation Janus and Operation Second Look. According to law professor Amanda Frost, the Department of Homeland Security is reviewing hundreds of thousands of approved naturalization applications to consider denaturalizing, removing citizenship even from people who have been US citizens for decades.


Many people have asked how the government can remove citizenship from someone who has been granted in the past. The justification they use is fraud. If anything in the naturalization application filed years prior was not true, the application is subject to revocation through the denaturalization process. Here are a few examples.


In one case, a person tried to enter the US on false documents. He was caught, stayed detained by immigration officials for a time, then was released. He eventually married a US citizen and became a permanent resident and eventually a US citizen. However, when he went through the green card and naturalization processes, he did not disclose that he had used false documents in the past.


In another case, a person was convicted of a crime after having become a US citizen. However, in the criminal process, he admitted to having committed the crime prior to the naturalization date. One question on the naturalization application relates to whether he had committed a crime or offense for which he had not yet been arrested. He said “No” on the application, but that response was incorrect.


For one last example, a person was ordered deported from the US in a different name that appears to be nothing more than a misspelling. With his name spelled correctly, he became a permanent resident and eventually a US citizen. He never received any notice that he was to appear in court under the misspelled name. Had he known about the proceedings, he likely could have appeared and resolved the misunderstanding. Now he has been denaturalized, despite having no knowledge that he was ever scheduled for deportation proceedings or ordered to leave the US.


It is absolutely critical that every answer provided on an application for naturalization be completed correctly and honestly. If an applicant tries to hide something, misrepresents something, or otherwise is untruthful on the application and becomes a US citizen, that citizenship is a house of cards. If DHS ever discovers the issue, denaturalization proceedings may follow.


If you have an issue in your US immigration history, or any criminal issue, fraud or misrepresentation anywhere in the world at any time in the past, please do not file for naturalization without discussing your issue with a qualified immigration lawyer. At Davis & Associates, our experienced immigration attorneys will confidentially review the issue with you and explain the possible consequences of disclosing the information to DHS. We will tell you what your risks are in filing or not filing, and how to correct issues from the past.


About the Author:


Garry Davis is the founder of Davis & Associates, an exclusive immigration law practice in Texas. A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, he is board certified in immigration and nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.