Why did Office of US Attorneys refuse to prosecute immigration benefit fraud?

Monty Wilkinson, director of OUSA

Monty Wilkinson, director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, was appointed by former AG Eric Holder. (Photo: DOJ)

A new report from the Inspector General for the Dept. of Homeland Security raised eyebrows by revealing “at least 858 individuals from special interest countries who had been ordered deported or removed under another name” were granted US citizenship. Special interest countries are usually those where terrorism is a concern.

Buried in the report are several nuggets missed by most media who reported on those 858 individuals. One nugget in particular warrants attention. 

The IG report noted:

“Currently, about 148,000 fingerprint records of aliens from special interest countries who had final deportation orders or who are criminals or fugitives have yet to be digitized.”

Both DHS and FBI are missing digitized records because “fingerprints collected during immigration enforcement encounters were not always forwarded to the FBI.”

The real bombshell, however, consists of a statement about policy at the US Dept. of Justice. Although that agency is the top federal law enforcement arm of the US government, the office overseeing DOJ attorneys declined to prosecute most immigration benefit fraud:

“Under the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act], a Federal court may revoke naturalization (denaturalize) through a civil or criminal proceeding if the citizenship was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation.7 However, few of these individuals have been investigated and subsequently denaturalized. As it identified these 1,029 individuals, OPS [Office of Operations Coordination] referred the cases to ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for investigation. As of March 2015, ICE had closed 90 investigations of these individuals and had 32 open investigations. The Offices of the United States Attorneys (USAO) accepted 2 cases for criminal prosecution, which could lead to denaturalization; the USAO declined 26 cases. ICE transferred two additional cases with fingerprint records linked to terrorism to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. ICE was scrutinizing another two cases for civil denaturalization.

According to ICE, it previously did not pursue investigation and subsequent revocation of citizenship for most of these individuals because the USAO generally did not accept immigration benefit fraud cases for criminal prosecution.”

Ultimately, ICE prevailed in urging DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation to “prosecute these types of cases,” and the office agreed in part. Going forward, the DOJ “agreed to prosecute individuals with Transportation Security (TSA) credentials, security clearances, positions of public trust, or criminal histories.” There are 120 individuals in that basket.

The program in charge of dealing with “inadmissible subjects” has subsequently been shut down by the Obama Administration.

How is it that the executive branch whose duties include national security chooses not to prosecute such fraud and worse, not to continue to investigate individuals who make fraudulent statements in order to obtain citizenship?

The director of the Offices of US Attorneys is Monty Wilkinson. He was appointed in March, 2014 by former attorney general and Clinton insider Eric Holder whose tenure was marked by scandals.

Wilkinson has also experienced less than stellar moments in his tenure. Although media largely ignored it, late in 2014, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-OK) sent a letter to Wilkinson after Congress learned of severe misconduct by attorneys. Here’s a snippet from that letter, citing another OIG report:

“According to the OIG report, one AUSA whose spouse was engaged in embezzlement made misleading and contradictory statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the OIG.  The statements pertained to how and when she learned of her spouse’s criminal activities, the circumstances surrounding an alleged fraudulent transfer of property, and her husband’s ownership in the property.1   According to the United States Code, it is illegal to knowingly and willfully make any materially false or fraudulent statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the Government of the United States.2   Yet the AUSA’s only punishment was apparently a verbal admonishment.3

In a second case, an AUSA used his government computer to send official documents from matters occurring before a grand jury to his spouse, who was employed as a paralegal with a private law firm.4   As stated in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an attorney for the government must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury and a knowing violation of this rule is punishable as contempt of court.5   The OIG concluded that the AUSA violated these rules.  However, since the AUSA retired from government service, the EOUSA was unable to impose any discipline.6

In a third case, an AUSA was recused from a federal investigation due to an existing personal relationship with the investigation’s target.”

Obviously, the federal government at all levels continues to demonstrate a need for critical and aggressive reform. President Obama’s appointees, many drawn from the political machine built by Bill and Hillary Clinton, appear to put their public service duties on the back burner in the interest of party politics. To refuse to prosecute immigration benefit fraud should be an impeachable offense for any agency head in charge of such matters. Wilkinson should be questioned about this policy by Congress.

The full IG report ‘Potentially ineligible individuals have been granted US citizenship because of incomplete fingerprint records’ is posted online at the DHS Office of the Inspector General. The report reveals more failure in a long line of failures by a government whose bureaucracy Americans pay dearly to fund.

Most media appear to have reported on the federal release about the report instead of actually reading the full report.

Above all, how is it that employees at agencies like DOJ and IRS continue to be given a pass on federal law?

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 20, 2016)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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