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Immigrant and Human Rights Groups Condemn Biden Administration’s New Denaturalization Policy

December 13, 2022 News

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Immigrant and Human Rights Groups Condemn Biden Administration’s New Denaturalization Policy

Groups Urge Biden Administration to Dismantle Denaturalization Apparatus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, the Department of Justice released a new denaturalization policy. Instead of reverting back to the decades-long practice of reserving denaturalization for only the most egregious cases, the policy legitimizes the denaturalization apparatus that the Trump administration built upon. The policy fully ignores concerns and recommendations that a broad coalition of advocacy organizations has repeated consistently since President Biden stepped into office. Alarmingly, under this policy, broad categories of people will continue to face the threat of their citizenship being taken away.

Organizations condemn the new policy and urge the Biden administration to immediately:

  • Halt denaturalization operations and dismantle the denaturalization apparatus that was further institutionalized under the Trump administration. This includes dismantling the “Denaturalization Section” within the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL) at the Department of Justice. The Biden administration’s new policy appears to have kept the same apparatus in place and simply called it by a different name.
  • Stop use of broad categories to target people for denaturalization. The administration has now introduced broad and vague targets for denaturalization, including people who "pose a potential danger to national security" or people with "a very serious felony." The new policy also states that they may pursue cases outside of these categories.
  • Provide guidance on whether the Department of Justice intends to continue litigating denaturalization cases that the Trump administration brought even those that fall outside of the new "priorities."
  • Instruct agency officials to exercise authority to recommend against denaturalization. Such guidance should include measures to prevent the targeting and use of derivatives as a means to coerce an individual into a denaturalization settlement.

Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney, National Immigration Project: “The Biden administration’s new denaturalization policy will continue to cause widespread harm to communities, especially Muslim, BIPOC, and poor communities, which are often the communities most targeted for denaturalization. We urge the administration to heed our recommendations, revise their policy, and take tangible steps to dismantle the denaturalization apparatus so that administrations that follow do not have the opportunity to weaponize dangerous existing frameworks.”

Elizabeth Taufa, Policy Attorney and Strategist, Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
“Rather than exploring ways to restore American citizenship to individuals who were targeted by the Trump administration in a discriminatory way, the Biden administration is further institutionalizing the use of an immigration enforcement tactic against US citizens. We call on the Biden administration to immediately end the practice of denaturalization and the use of technologies such as ATLAS, which allow for its overbroad, widespread and discriminatory use. Rather than enthusiastically following the course of the Trump administration, the Biden administration should chart a new course that promotes the ability of US citizens to live freely and without the fear of immigration enforcement.”

Lourdes M. Rosado, President and General Counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF:
“The Biden Administration’s denaturalization policy will not only target Latinos and others in the US directly, but it will also dramatically increase fear in our communities and reinforce the xenophobic idea that non-white naturalized citizens should be targeted for unending surveillance and suspicion. As we face rising anti-immigrant and anti-Latino hatred, the federal government should be doing everything possible to gain Latino trust and encourage naturalization for those eligible. This policy does the opposite.”

Hammad Alam, Staff Attorney and National Security & Civil Rights Program Manager, Asian Law Caucus:
"Powered by secretive tools like ATLAS, denaturalization has morphed into a dragnet system that is separating families and disproportionately targeting Black and Muslim citizens who are deeply rooted in their communities after decades living in the United States. To live up to its own espoused values of justice and inclusion, the Biden administration must end discriminatory denaturalization policies that are stripping people of their citizenship through practices shrouded in secrecy and rooted in police databases that already disproportionately target Black and Brown communities."

The National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national non-profit resource center that works to improve immigration law and policy, expand the capacity of legal service providers, and advance immigrant rights. With deep expertise in immigration law, including removal defense and the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, the ILRC trains attorneys, paralegals, and community-based advocates who work with immigrants around the country. We inform the media, elected officials, and public to shape effective and just immigration policy and law. Our staff works with grassroots immigrant organizations to promote civic engagement and social change.

The Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility Project (“CLEAR”) is a non-profit organization that supports Muslims and other clients, communities, and movements in the New York City area and beyond that are targeted by local, state, or federal government agencies under the guise of national security and counterterrorism.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For more than 40 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout New York and beyond.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus (ALC) is a national legal and civil rights organization serving Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Its National Security & Civil Rights program defends those targeted by so-called national security, counterterrorism, and other related policies, especially Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. ALC has worked to end the Muslim and African Bans, leads efforts to challenge the state of California’s homeland security operations, and actively represents individuals targeted by the government’s national security policies.