(CNSNews.com) – The granting of U.S. citizenship to three individuals who were convicted as a result of a terrorism-related investigation was “outrageous,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), chairman of the House Judiciary immigration policy and enforcement subcommittee, told CNSNews.com.
King was commenting on a key finding in a recently-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (PDF, 6.7 MB) on criminal aliens, which he had requested.
The report showed that the three people were among “defendants where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism but they were charged with violating other statutes, including fraud, immigration, drugs, false statements, and general conspiracy charges.”
The three became naturalized American citizens under the Obama administration, two in late 2009 and one in 2010.
“It’s outrageous that you can have people under your very nose and adjudicate them through the process and convict them and then turn around and grant them citizenship,” King said in response to inquiries from CNSNews.com.
He said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should be conducting background checks on all citizenship applications.
“Nobody should be getting citizenship that has been adjudicated in this fashion. It’s something that we’re going to have to take up with USCIS, and I just think it’s outrageous.”
The GAO report, which was released on April 21, was requested by both King and California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, who did not respond to CNSNews.com’s requests for comments.
“I would like to think that we’re treating this the same whether it had been something that happened under George Bush’s administration or whether it was under President Obama’s administration,” King told CNSNews.com.
“But I am concerned and have been in the business of trying to push each of those administrations into enforcing immigration law. And we have those laws for a reason – it’s about national security.”
“When you think of all the things that we went through after September 11  to try to put security in place so that we can protect this nation from terrorists and then to find out that we are granting them citizenship – it is something that America should not tolerate and the patience level of the American people should have been worn thin a long time ago on these kind of mistakes,” King continued.
“We should be separating our partners in politics from policy,” he said. “You get good government when you separate them.”
The GAO found that the three individuals were granted citizenship through analysis of the immigration status of defendants found in a Department of Justice list of terror-related investigations from September 11, 2001 through March 18, 2010.
Of the hundreds of individuals on the list, the GAO found that three were granted citizenship.
According to the GAO, prior to becoming U.S. citizens two of the individuals were “convicted of unlawful production of an identity document and one was convicted of transferring funds out of the country in violation of U.S. sanctions.”
“An individual applying for naturalization must demonstrate good moral character for a statutory period of time – from 5 years preceding the application up to admission to citizenship,” the GAO report noted.
“This includes not having been convicted of crimes, such as murder, rape, drug trafficking, or other aggravated felonies prior to or during that period, as well as not having been convicted of other crimes during that period, such as certain drug offenses or convictions that led to 180 days or more of prison time.”
According to the USCIS, however, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that in determining good moral character, the federal government can look further back than five years.
Nevertheless, “USCIS determined that each of these individuals were able to demonstrate good moral character within the required [five year] period of time and met all other requirements for naturalization,” the report said.
The offenses committed by the three individuals were among what the DOJ refers to as “Category II” terrorism-related cases.
“Prosecuting terror-related targets using Category II offenses and others is often an effective method – and sometimes the only available method – of deterring and disrupting potential terrorist planning and support activities,” the DOJ explains in the document listing the terrorism-related investigations.