(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has mistakenly granted citizenship to at least 858 immigrants who had pending deportation orders, according to an audit released Monday by the Homeland Security Department’s internal watchdog.
The department's inspector general, John Roth, found that these individuals came from countries with high rates of immigration fraud or were registered as a national security concern. His team did not identify the individuals involved nor the "special interest countries" from where they emigrated.
The problem became apparent after department employees working on the citizenship applications did not have access to fingerprint records of these individuals, according to the audit. Roth said many paper fingerprint files from the past have not been digitized, and as a result, would not show up in searches when the immigrants applied for citizenship under a different name.
"This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud," Roth said in a statement.
The audit recommended that any fingerprints in outstanding cases be added to the government's database and that officials create a system to evaluate the individual cases where immigrants were improperly granted citizenship. DHS officials agreed with the IG’s report and said the government is working on implementing changes and "corrective actions."
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