Justice Department officials have declined to investigate 3,700 cases of people receiving asylum after hiring lawyers who were convicted of preparing fraudulent asylum applications.

"DOJ's refusal to take action in these cases is simply outrageous," House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., wrote Thursday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Federal law enforcement officials uncovered "nine separate but overlapping immigration fraud schemes in New York City" involving lawyers who helped Chinese nationals make fraudulent claims for asylum.

The investigation, Operation Fiction Writer, produced dozens of prosecutions of the people who organized the scheme, but Goodlatte also wants the Justice Department to target the immigrants who made the false claims. DOJ is refusing to do so, claiming that the responsibility lies with the Department of Homeland Security.

"Those who obtained asylum through fraud should have their asylum status revoked and should be removed from the United States in accordance with law because they have unlawfully derived the benefits and privileges of asylum status that rightfully belong to those who have legitimately suffered persecution," Goodlatte wrote.

The law firms involved in the fraud ring coached would-be immigrants on how to claim that Chinese government officials were forcing them to have abortions, persecuting them because of their Christian faith, or targeting them for political reasons.

The asylum claims are a particularly valuable means of immigrating to the United States, Goodlatte emphasized, because they obtain federal benefits and become eligible for citizenship after one year of legal residence in the country.

"Once they attain U.S. citizenship, they are eligible to file petitions to obtain immigration benefits for their family members," Goodlatte wrote. "Thus, tens of thousands of aliens could potentially derive their status and U.S. citizenship through this pervasive fraud."

The letter included a passage citing a suggestion from Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik that DHS has a responsibility to take up the fraud cases, but the House Judiciary chairman dismissed that as a "misleading" response to committee questions.

"[The Executive Office for Immigration Review's] immigration judges have the independent authority to reopen cases — and justice demands that they do so where fraud is suspected," he wrote.