A 63-year-old woman who immigrated from Peru in the 1980s learned this week she was being sued by the Department of Justice to “denaturalize” her because of her minor role in a fraud scheme years ago, according to the Miami Herald.
Norma Borgono, who has lived in Miami for 28 years and became a citizen in 2007, learned that the DOJ was suing to revoke her citizenship because of her role helping her boss commit a $24 million fraud scheme years ago.
When the FBI discovered the scheme, Borgono, who as his secretary had falsified paperwork, cooperated with the prosecutors and helped their case against her former boss—who is now also being sued for denaturalization. Borgono took a plea deal and was sentenced in 2012 to a year of house arrest. According to the accounts from her trial, she never made any money beyond her normal salary during the scheme.
Two years after she completed her sentence, she received a letter from the DOJ alerting her to the denaturalization suit. According to the Herald, the DOJ is arguing that, even though she had not been charged at the time she obtained her citizenship, she lied in her application by not admitting to her criminal activity. As a result, she committed citizenship fraud.
“Criminals that seek citizenship in the United States and knowingly hide their criminal history have no right to keep their citizenship,” acting Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a press release.
Borgono has a rare kidney disease, according to the Herald, and without a family network back in Peru, she would be at higher risk of not getting the proper care if deported. Her daughter told the Herald she was worried her mother would die if she was forced to return to Peru.
If the Trump administration pushes to denaturalize citizens like Borgono for more minor offenses committed before their citizenship was obtained, thousands of Americans could find themselves facing a similar prospect.
Denaturalization suits, however, are not new, and the push to investigate naturalized citizens can partly be attributed to an initiative started under the Obama administration. The U.S. has in the past revoked citizenship for extreme offenses—such as war crimes—and citizenship fraud (commonly in cases of marriage fraud or identity fraud, for example), but Borgono’s case is a sign that that initiative is expanding sharply in scope to search out those who have already committed crimes.
Last month, it was reported that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service had formed a task force to identify Americans who lied on their citizenship applications and pursue denaturalization cases against them. While the move was apparently meant to focus on those who lived under false identities, it now seems possible that people more like Borgono could be swept up in the push.