A blind Jordanian with an American green card has convinced a Denver federal judge that authorities have waited too long to approve or reject his bid for U.S. citizenship.
Zuhair Mahd, a 33-year-old computer expert and industrious blogger, took his case to federal court last May, saying that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services took longer than the allotted time to process his application.
He was not shy. In his suit, in which he acted as his own lawyer, Mahd named Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and FBI Director Robert Mueller as defendants.
While many armchair lawyers get their cases quickly kicked out of court, Mahd triumphed. On March 21, U.S. District Judge Walker Miller said Mahd had proved his case.
Miller ordered the FBI to complete a background investigation within 45 days, after which immigration authorities will have up to 45 more days to make up their minds.
The judge's ruling applies only to those citizenship seekers who have been interviewed by Citizenship and Immigration Services. Federal regulations require a decision be made within 120 days after such an interview, the judge said.
Miller said the government must now act on Mahd's request. But he did not order the USCIS to approve Mahd for citizenship.
To prevent the 120-day clock from starting, the USCIS has recently stopped interviewing applicants until the FBI completes its background work, said Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, an agency spokeswoman.
How many applicants could be affected by Miller's ruling isn't clear.
But about 30 similar suits were under way in the Colorado district at the beginning of the year, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.