An Iraqi refugee living in Idaho has joined a growing number of Muslims across the country who are suing the U.S. government for delays in processing their citizenship applications.

Ali Al-Lati has worked with the U.S. military for six years, as a language instructor and cultural advisor. He has learned English, passed his citizenship exams, and waited for almost five years for his FBI name check to be cleared.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, new regulations forced the FBI to conduct additional background checks on all immigrants seeking citizenship status. The number of checks received by the bureau has since reached over 4 million per year. The Denver Post reports that the FBI backlog currently exceeds 440,000.

The FBI acknowledges that there is a problem, but refutes the allegations that discrimination is a factor in the delays.

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, however, sees things differently. They filed a class-action lawsuit against the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2005 on behalf of all Muslims that they say have experienced “unreasonable delays” in obtaining their citizenship. They have since been joined by class-action suits in California and New York and dozens of individual lawsuits across the country, including Al-Lati’s.

The lawsuits are getting results, which could lead to more and more would-be citizens turning to the courts for resolution in the future. An internal DHS memo obtained by the Denver Post indicates that a “lawsuit pending in Federal Court” is grounds for moving a person’s paperwork towards the top of the growing pile.


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