May 10, 2018

Dozens used Hungarian passports to enter U.S. on false identities

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivering a speech. Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images

At least 85 people have attempted to enter the United States under false identities using authentic Hungarian passports obtained via a program designed to grant ethnic Hungarians abroad citizenship, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Why it matters: The security vulnerability could allow criminals — like human traffickers and drug smugglers — to enter the U.S. undetected. It also could be utilized on a larger scale, perhaps by Russia or a terrorist group like ISIS.

By the numbers:

  • About 700 non-Hungarians obtained Hungarian passports and assumed the identities of original passport holders.
  • At least 85 of those people attempted to travel to the U.S. — and 65 of them successfully entered the country.
  • DHS deported more than half, but 30 still remained in the U.S. as of October.

How it happened, per the report by WaPo's John Hudson and Andras Petho:

  • "DHS officials say they believe criminals obtained the authentic passports by exploiting a Hungarian government program that allows ethnic Hungarians who live outside the country to obtain citizenship in an expedited manner."
  • "Citizens of Hungary, a member of the European Union, are eligible for visa-free travel to the United States."
  • "U.S. officials believe criminals came into possession of some of the passports belonging to new citizens and sold them to customers who then assumed new identities to travel to different countries under false pretenses."

The move was a political one for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

  • "In 2010, Orban’s conservative government said the new system would help strengthen ties with the Hungarian diaspora living in the territories that Hungary lost to the neighboring countries as the result of the peace treaty after World War I."
  • "Since the law took effect in 2011, the more than 1 million new citizens living outside Hungary’s borders have rewarded Orban politically. Besides the opportunity to obtain passports, they were given the right to vote in Hungary’s general election."
  • "Voting data shows that an overwhelming majority has supported Orban’s Fidesz party."

Go deeper on the hardline immigration policies in Orbán's Hungary.

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