When Sana Jalili of Fremont first applied for U.S. citizenship in December 2003, everything seemed to be going well.

Jalili, who came to the United States from Pakistan on her parents’ work visas at age 15 and became a legal permanent resident in 2001, aced her citizenship test and interview and made it through criminal background checks without a problem. In September 2004, an officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told her she would receive notice of her oath ceremony within three months.

But more than two years later, the 26-year-old information technology specialist and mother of two is still waiting, held up by a “name check” requirement that has left perhaps thousands of would-be citizens in limbo.

So Jalili and seven other Bay Area residents are suing the government in federal court, seeking answers and their citizenship.

“America is the only home I know. There’s no other place I would want to live other than here. It is extremely important to me that I become a full participating citizen of this country,” she told a room full of reporters on Thursday.

Jalili and the other plaintiffs, who live in Fremont, Richmond and San Francisco, have each waited more than two years for that right, because name checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on them are not yet complete. The suit argues that Citizenship and Immigration Services has just 120 days to do the work and that it should adhere to that timeline. . .

The suit, filed by local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations and also the Asian Law Caucus, is one of several such suits filed across the country. Attorneys said Thursday they know of more than 100 people in the Bay Area facing similar problems. They are seeking class-action status. . .

Some attorneys representing those caught in this system said they’re concerned it could be targeting Muslims and people from the Middle East and Southeast Asian.

Heena Musabji, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, which has also sued the government over the delays, said her agency has heard about 203 delay cases in the Chicago area so far; the majority of those waiting are Muslim, and the majority are male. Her group asked the government for more information on those facing delays.


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