WASHINGTON, DC — Last week, Muslim Advocates asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to return U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to its original mission of welcoming, rather than punishing, immigrants. In a comment letter sent to DHS last Wednesday, Muslim Advocates warned that under the Trump administration, USCIS morphed from an agency designed to provide benefits and services to immigrants into an arm of immigration enforcement. In particular, USCIS has become a crucial hub for denaturalizations, a formerly last-resort process weaponized by Trump to strip naturalized Americans of their citizenship. USCIS also holds a critical role in other citizenship-stripping practices that sidestep the denaturalization process like the cancellation of certificates of citizenship and passport revocations.
In January, Muslim Advocates and nearly 50 other groups sent a letter asking the Biden administration to dismantle the government’s denaturalization apparatus. The following month, President Biden signed an executive order requiring the federal government to review all policies and practices regarding denaturalization and passport revocation. As part of that review, DHS sought comments on USCIS and barriers to immigration benefits. In the comment letter sent last Wednesday, Muslim Advocates asked DHS to:
- Halt all referrals for denaturalization pending the Biden administration’s review
- Disband USCIS’s Benefits Integrity Office, a task force that has grown in power and has become a key player in the denaturalization process
- Publicly disclose data on referrals and denaturalizations
- Revert USCIS to its pre-Trump administration mission statement of of adjudicating and facilitating access to immigration benefits
“The Trump administration turned USCIS from an agency tasked with welcoming immigrants into an agency that targets naturalized U.S. citizens and strips them of their citizenship,” said Muslim Advocates Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow Deborah Choi. “President Biden promised to turn the page on Trump’s cruel war on immigrants and one of the best ways to do that is to end denaturalizations and reform the agency that was perverted into carrying them out.”
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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.