Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responds to DHS' immigration mistake

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This file image shows a citizenship ceremony in Houston. (KTRK)

The weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, along with a big mistake made by U.S. Homeland Security has put immigration back in the spotlight. Just this week, government officials announced that more than 800 immigrants were granted citizenship by mistake.

The 24-page report was issued earlier this month and found that of the 1,000 people they investigated as part of an audit, 858 of them were granted citizenship without confirming their identities through fingerprints, because officials didn't have access to the records.

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The U.S. government has mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants



All of them had previously been ordered, deported or removed under other identities. One person among the 858 now works in law enforcement, three had licenses to conduct security sensitive work, one obtained a license to work in secure areas in ports, and two had access to secure areas at commercial airports.

We don't know how many of the 858 were in Texas or more specifically in Houston, because the government report doesn't reveal that. Another 953 individuals were naturalized while under deportation orders, but the report did not capture enough data to determine if fingerprinting was the culprit.

However, it does state that during the investigation auditors interviewed application workers in Houston and Atlanta. The report also stated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees in LA, Seattle, and Houston were interviewed.

Gordon Quan, a former Houston City Council member and long time immigration attorney, says the numbers listed in the Inspector General's report are statistically insignificant. He's seen vast improvements in the immigration system even if it needs to get better.

"I think there are clerical flaws and glitches within the system," said Quan. "As a vetting process we want people of good moral character who show that they respect the law and that they're committed to the principles of the United States. So if there are violations they've had in the past, those things need to be addressed."

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has a different take.

"It tells you that the federal government is totally broken down on the issue of illegal immigration and legal immigration," said Lt. Gov. Patrick. "You can't trust anything you're hearing from the federal government. It's a big government and I understand it's a big nation. Could you lose track of a few people, could you make mistakes? Of course. But those mistakes should be that (demonstrates small size with his fingers) number. So, 858, they can't even explain it."

We know from the report that there are 90 investigations closed, 32 still open, and two cases under criminal prosecution, though the Inspector General's office did tell Eyewitness News, "it is not yet clear how many of the 858 are still in the country."

Here is the full statement from the Department of Homeland Security regarding the Inspector General's report:
"As noted in the OIG report, ICE identified a number of decades-old fingerprints-in legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) paper files-that were not digitized and therefore not available as part of the immigration adjudication process. While the vast majority of these fingerprints date back to the 1990's, DHS is and has been taking steps to address this issue.

DHS and its components have taken and continue to take actions to address the challenges posed by the existence of legacy paper-based fingerprint records. Today, all DHS fingerprints are digitally uploaded into IDENT, a data system accessible across all DHS components and interoperable with other federal agencies. The OIG made two recommendations, which the Department is expeditiously, and in large part already had been, implementing.

First, ICE will continue digitizing all available paper-based fingerprint records for the files identified in the OIG report. Before the report was issued, ICE had already digitized the majority of the 315,000 records which it had previously identified as having potentially missing paper fingerprint records. The remaining number will be reviewed and digitized.

Second, the Department has established a USCIS-led review team, which is working closely with ICE and DHS headquarters personnel to review every file identified in the OIG report as being a case of possible fraud and where digital fingerprint records were not or may not have been available at the time of the naturalization adjudication. This team has begun its review of the cases identified in the OIG report to determine whether naturalization was in fact fraudulently or otherwise improperly obtained. This review builds on the prior and ongoing collaboration between DHS and DOJ to seek denaturalization when citizenship has been obtained unlawfully. As the OIG report notes, the Department had already identified and prioritized for potential criminal prosecution approximately 120 naturalized citizens who appear to have committed fraud and who avoided detection because their fingerprint records were not digitally available at the time of naturalization. Individuals involved in fraudulent applications represent a very small number of all those naturalizing.

It is important to note that the fact that fingerprint records in these cases may have been incomplete at the time of the naturalization interview does not necessarily mean that the applicant was in fact granted naturalization, or that the applicant obtained naturalization fraudulently. Preliminary results from the file reviews show that in a significant number of these cases naturalization had been denied and that, in some, naturalization was not improperly granted. Other cases are subject to ongoing criminal investigation or to denaturalization proceedings that are pending or completed. Where the DHS review process finds that naturalization was obtained fraudulently, DHS will appropriately refer the case to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for civil or criminal proceedings, including for denaturalization."
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