The report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General determined that records were missing from a DHS digital repository because paper-based fingerprint cards used prior to 2008 were not consistently digitized.
An FBI repository is also missing records, the report found, because immigration officials had not always forwarded fingerprints to the FBI in the past.
To date, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the largest investigative agency in DHS has identified approximately 148,000 older fingerprint records of immigrants who have final deportation orders pending, or who are criminals or fugitives, that have yet to be digitized, according to the report.
The incomplete records present a problem because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rely on that information, in part, when reviewing applications for U.S. citizenship. Hundreds of individuals, therefore, have been able to become naturalized U.S. citizens even after having been deported under a different identity, the report noted.
"This situation created opportunities for individuals to gain the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship through fraud," said DHS Inspector General John Roth in statement. "To prevent fraud and ensure thorough review of naturalization applications, USCIS needs access to these fingerprint records."