by Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica
Xunmei Li, the Chinese immigrant and businesswoman who played a role in a large-scale security lapse inside the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, lost her U.S. citizenship last week and likely faces exile from the country.
Federal Judge David Campbell ruled that Li’s 2009 conviction for immigration fraud, combined with evidence that she was knowingly married to two men at once, is sufficient cause to denaturalize her. Li, 44, lied to immigration officials about how many times she’d married and whether she has children while applying for citizenship a decade ago. She denied being a mother despite having two U.S.-born daughters.
The order against Li is the latest chapter in the murky, long-buried story of how a Chinese national came to work inside the counter terrorism center in Phoenix. Lizhong Fan, a computer programmer from Beijing, spent five months in 2007 working with confidential records, including Arizona’s database of five million driver’s licenses. Fan abruptly left for China with computer equipment, potentially holding reams of sensitive data.
Li, who emigrated to the U.S. from Shanghai in 1994, has said she was the person whose recommendation led to Fan working inside the intelligence center. Li said she suggested Fan as a candidate to work on a facial recognition program owned and operated by a small security company called Hummingbird Defense Systems. Li was the girlfriend of the company’s chief executive, Steve Greschner.