20 indicted for rigging immigrants' test results More than 13,000 in 22 states could face retesting or expulsion

January 28, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials indicted 20 people yesterday on charges of falsifying the naturalization examinations of more than 13,000 legal immigrants in 22 states over the past two years.

The fate of those immigrants remains uncertain, but at a minimum they face retesting and at a maximum being stripped of their citizenship and deported. The indictments exposed an embarrassing hole in the naturalization process, for which 1.6 million people applied last year. The charges also prompted the Immigration and Naturalization Service to announce yesterday that it would revamp the entire procedure. This includes reconsidering its 1991 decision to privatize the testing to make the exams more accessible in neighborhoods where immigrants live. The companies subcontracted with hundreds of private individuals nationwide to conduct the tests.

"This raises questions about the testing program," said Michael Bromwich, the inspector general of the Justice Department. Bromwich said the procedure had broken down because of a lack of supervision between accredited testing organizations and the subcontractors. Officials said the subcontractors had sent recruiters, or runners, into ethnic neighborhoods in several states, mainly New York and California, to solicit money from immigrants in exchange for a guarantee that they would pass the naturalization examination. They said private subcontractors, in some cases, would take the tests for the immigrants. In some cases, they supplied the answers. In others, they simply certified that the immigrants had passed the test when they had not even taken it.

The immigrants were said to have paid up to $500 per person for passing the examinations, collectively paying the testers more than $3 million from 1995 to 1997.

Paul Seave, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, announced the indictments and said 15 of the 20 were arrested yesterday morning in New York, California, Oregon and Nebraska. Among those arrested in New York was Daud Mohammad Amiri, 36, of Queens. Still sought by the Justice Department is Khalilullah Raouf, 35, also of Queens. Officials said the two were involved in recruiting immigrants from Afghanistan. Like the others, they face a maximum of 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines on each of several counts of conspiracy.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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