Ever since you were young, you dreamed of becoming an American. You studied hard; you saved your money. After college, you landed a job in New York. After gaining resident status, you applied for citizenship. You took the interview, you passed the tests, and you successfully became a naturalized United States citizen!
For you, the idea of denaturalization as a legitimate possibility can be a scary prospect. Denaturalization is the concept behind Operation Janus–an initiative by the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS has identified approximately 315,000 cases of naturalized citizens with incomplete fingerprint data. The fingerprint repository is incomplete because the DHS failed to add all of the old records to the database when it was created. However, it believes that some of the citizens with incomplete data may have obtained citizenship fraudulently, and it’s seeking to terminate citizenship for such individuals.
This month marked the first case of U.S. denaturalization. 43-year old Baljinder Singh is a native of India. He has been in the United States since the early 90s and has been naturalized since 2006. Under Operation Janus, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services revoked Singh’s citizenship, giving him instead the status of lawful permanent resident.
The rationale for Singh’s denaturalization was not included in the Department of Justice press release. This lack of information has raised anxiety about the implications for other naturalized citizens.
Critics of the denaturalization have been vocal. The executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center has denounced Operation Janus, claiming that the effort wrongly assumes that anyone with incomplete fingerprint data is a suspect for criminal or duplicitous activity. Tensions are high that this case represents a slippery slope for further instances of denaturalization.