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Unpacking an Asylum Fraud Case That Contains So Much Absurdity

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A Nigerian man who entered
this country on a stolen British passport, fraudulently obtained U.S.
citizenship and ended up working as a federal immigration officer has, finally,
landed in court.

Modestus Nwagubwu Ifemembi, 48, faces a single count of “unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship.” But this bizarre, two-decade-long chain of events raises countless intriguing questions.

First, the background.  

Ifemembi entered the U.S. on
a France-to-Chicago flight in 2000. After immigration agents in the Windy City
detained Ifemembi – who admitted to passport fraud – he was granted asylum.
Approval was based on false claims that his name was “Karlos Mourfy” and a
native of Sierra Leone.

Ifemembi/Mourfy went on to
attend the University of California, Berkeley and obtain a law degree from the
University of Oregon. In 2010, “Karlos Mourfy” applied for U.S. citizenship as
Ifemembi. It was granted in 2011. In 2013, he was hired by U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS), where he worked as an immigration officer for
seven years.

Examining this twisted trail of deceit and bureaucratic fumbles, Robert Law of the Center for Immigration Studies wondered:

  • How did
    immigration screeners fail to discover that Ifemembi was from Nigeria and not
    Sierra Leone when he applied for asylum?
  • How did
    USCIS fail to discover the fraud when he subsequently applied to adjust status?
  • How did
    USCIS (under then-Director Alejandro Mayorkas) fail to discover the fraud
    when it approved Ifemembi’s naturalization?
  • How did
    Ifemembi pass background and security checks when USCIS hired him, again during
    Mayorkas’ tenure?
  • What was
    Ifemembi’s portfolio as an immigration officer? Will all of his casework be
    reviewed?
  • Given
    Mayorkas’ “get to yes” approach to immigration benefits, did the
    agency’s political leadership overrule any red flags identified by
    adjudicators?
  • As
    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, will Mayorkas ensure that
    Ifemembi is denaturalized promptly upon conviction?
  • Will the
    Biden administration deport Ifemembi?

Some of these institutional issues
are beyond the scope of Ifemembi’s upcoming trial, but they are all pertinent
questions that demand straight answers and appropriate action.

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