The Issue

* Federal law provides the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) up to 120 days to accept or reject a particular applicant’s request for US citizenship after the applicant has provided the required documentation, been fingerprinted and interviewed.

* Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 a new type of background check, known as a “name check;” a search of FBI records based on the full name of the applicant, is required by USCIS for adjudication of applications for naturalization.

* The backlog resulting from this new check is leaving law-abiding applicants in a legal limbo, sometimes for years, in violation of federal law.

Because of thousands of people who are affected by this immense backlog, there should be research requiring USCIS to implement a system that more adequately tracks cases and prioritizes those that have gone beyond the statutory 120 day limit. This data should be reported to Congress to ensure proper oversight.

This has forced several mandamus federal lawsuits to be filed in order to compel the government to expedite the applications of those individuals who have waited longer than the 120 day statutory period.

Lawsuits Waste Tax Dollars and Divert the Attention of U.S. Attorneys Away From Criminal Prosecutions

* “U.S. Attorney for Colorado Troy Eid estimated that for the amount of time his staff has devoted this year to defending the FBI, it could “be putting 50 or more bad guys behind bars.” (Denver Post, 12/10/2006)

* “Hundreds of lawsuits against the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are pending in federal courts nationwide, including class-action cases in California, Illinois and New York, according to judicial records and attorneys.” (Denver Post, 12/10/2006)

* Applicants are seeing that lawsuits get results, encouraging more litigation. A Department of Homeland Security memo reveals that the FBI now considers a “lawsuit pending in Federal Court” as grounds for speeding up stalled background checks.” (Denver Post, 12/10/2006)

If There Are Real Security Concerns About Certain People, Lengthy Background Checks Do Not Serve the Public Good

* If it is a national security issue, an expedited process or a properly funded program would more quickly identify and remove threats to our nation.

* Background checks taking more than 120 days are neither efficient nor good for security.

* People applying for citizenship have already been in the country for at least 5 years.
The FBI Maintains That the Reason For The Delay Is Expanded Requirements To Complete The Background Checks But Limited Resources

* FBI spokespeople routinely say the name check program is understaffed and inadequately funded.

* “Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General wrote in a recent national review of the security check process that the agency “has difficulty creating and retrieving historical records that show what checks were done when.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/22/2005)

* In 2004, “advocates estimated that at least 100,000 of the 678,000 immigrants with pending citizenship applications nationwide have been waiting longer than the Bush administration’s six month goal.” (Associated Press, 10/16/2004)

Published Thursday, March 29, 2007 5:39 PM by Arsalan Iftikhar

Arsalan Iftikhar serves as National Legal Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights and advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 32 chapters nationwide and in Canada.


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