Akram Jawad and Iman Kadom, a professional couple from Iraq, have been legal residents of the United States for more than 11 years, but have been unable to obtain citizenship.
They blame bureaucratic delays that have left some citizenship applications on ice for more than three years, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
Jawad, a retired physician now working in real estate, and his wife, a homemaker, live in Tampa with their three children. They passed their naturalization interviews in September 2004, the lawsuit states.
For more than three years, they have been waiting for the FBI to do a "name check," or an exhaustive check of whether their names appear in any law enforcement records, including whether they were witnesses or victims of any potential crimes, the suit says.
These name checks are at the center of the suit filed Feb. 19 in Orlando on behalf of 14 people who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens. A similar lawsuit has been filed in Miami by lawyers for the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. The suits name as defendants officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; FBI Director Robert Mueller; and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Although federal law requires a decision within 120 days of the naturalization interview, these plaintiffs have been waiting for more than a year and some for up to four years since successfully completing the citizenship interviews, according to a news release issued by CAIR. Without citizenship, many of these plaintiffs are separated from family members abroad, and all are unable to vote in the upcoming presidential election, the lawsuit alleges.
CAIR was scheduled to hold news conference Wednesday in Tampa, Orlando and Miami to discuss the lawsuit.