Ali Ali says he loves America -- for its freedom, its values and opportunities.
But the Iraqi immigrant says he has been unable to become a U.S. citizen, despite passing all the citizenship tests and requirements and waiting for almost a year. His problem is shared by other Arab and Muslim men in metro Detroit and across the United States, attorneys in Dearborn said Tuesday.
"I hate to be waiting all my life," said Ali, 37, of Dearborn. "Just tell me."
Ali, along with attorneys and civil rights advocates, spoke Tuesday at a news conference held by the Michigan chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The committee also held conferences in Dallas, Anaheim, Calif., and Washington, D.C., to highlight problems.
Under federal law, immigrants who have taken citizenship interviews are supposed to be notified within 120 days on whether their U.S. citizenship request has been approved. Ali had his interview in May 2005, but he still hasn't heard from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
A spokesman for the service, Shawn Saucier, said Tuesday that the agency is "working hard to refine the process."
The problem, he said, is that in some cases, it takes a while for the FBI to conduct background checks, known as name checks. In less than 1% of cases, the FBI takes more than six months to conduct the checks.