Advocacy update

Justice Initiative Joins Call for Biden Administration to Halt Citizenship Stripping

Open Letter to Biden-Harris Transition Team Download the 4-page document. Pages, 160.74 Kb, PDF Download
January 19, 2021
Office of Communications
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The Open Society Justice Initiative has joined nearly 50 immigration and civil rights organizations calling for the incoming Biden administration to end the U.S. government’s use of denaturalizations, a draconian tool that was weaponized under the Trump administration to quietly strip naturalized Americans of color of their citizenship. 

In 2019, the Justice Initiative released Unmaking Americans: Insecure Citizenship in the United States, a report that warned of a looming threat to U.S. citizenship due to the Trump administration’s abdication, and often attack of longstanding legal norms. The report, the first of its kind, found that the Trump administration had filed three times as many denaturalization cases than the last eight administrations, on average. Under Trump, the largest proportion of denaturalization cases targeted citizens of South Asian, Mexican, Haitian, and Nigerian descent.

Prior to 2016, denaturalization was considered a last resort, most often applied to alleged Nazis and war criminals who had deliberately concealed their identity in order to escape accountability. Shortly after the report’s release, on February 26, 2020, the Civil Division of the Department of Justice announced the creation of a section exclusively dedicated to investigating and litigating denaturalization cases, a move motivated by “the growing number of referrals anticipated from law enforcement agencies.” However, despite the escalation of the administration’s rhetoric and resources, the administration’s policies and practice remain hidden from scrutiny.

Specifically, the open letter calls on the incoming administration to:

  • enact a day one moratorium on all denaturalizations until safeguards for the process are put in place;
  • dismantle the Trump administration’s denaturalization offices and programs;
  • disclose data related to individual denaturalization cases since 2008;
  • remake the process into one that reinstates citizenship and saves denaturalization as a measure of last resort; and
  • ensure technologies used by government do not target and surveil communities based on race and/or ethnicity. 

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