A report released by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general Monday revealed an estimated 858 immigrants were "mistakenly granted citizenship," The Associated Press reported. The individuals, who reportedly had pending deportation orders, were from countries with frequent immigration fraud or that pose a security concern to the U.S.
The individuals' fingerprints were missing from the FBI's incomplete database, which doesn't always include prints collected during immigration enforcement activities; as a result, the 858 immigrants were able to obtain citizenship and, in some instances, used a different name or birthdate to apply. DHS has blamed the gaps on the fact that many paper records still have yet to be added to digital databases. In total, the report said that federal databases lacked fingerprints for an estimated 315,000 immigrants who had "final deportation orders or who are fugitive criminals," The Associated Press reported.
"This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud," Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth said. "To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] needs access to these fingerprint records." At least three of the individuals reportedly received clearance for "security-sensitive work at commercial airports or maritime facilities and vessels," though those clearances have since been revoked.
The DHS said in a statement that the "lack of digital fingerprint records does not necessarily mean [the individuals] committed fraud," as some "may have ultimately qualified for citizenship."