(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/5/08) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed a decision by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granting citizenship to a Muslim resident of Springfield, Va. who had been waiting more than two years to take his oath. The result came after CAIR filed a lawsuit intended to expedite the process.
Chokri El Kotel, a bus driver from Tunisia, applied for citizenship in March 2006. He interviewed in November 2006, passing the examinations for English and U.S. history. The interviewer told him the approval was pending an FBI name check, which would be completed within two weeks of the interview, yet Mr. El Kotel received no response to his follow-up inquiries for more than a year.
Mr. El Kotel contacted CAIR in early 2008. In March 2008, CAIR filed a complaint for relief and petition for naturalization on his behalf against the DHS, FBI, and USCIS in the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va. In an arrangement made with a U.S. Attorney, CAIR agreed to drop the petition when USCIS said it would make an immediate decision about Mr. El Kotel’s application. Mr. El Kotel took his oath of citizenship earlier this week.
Mr. El Kotel’s story reflects those of thousands of other Muslims in the U.S. who have met all the requirements of citizenship, yet face delays that may last for years while they wait for an FBI name check to be completed.
Since early 2006 CAIR has held more than 160 meetings on Capitol Hill educating elected officials and their staff about cases such as Mr. El Kotel’s.
SEE: CAIR’s Legislative Fact Sheet on Citizenship Delays
CAIR offices nationwide have sought to ease this situation, partnering with other civil and immigrant rights organizations to expedite cases. In the past two years, CAIR chapters in California, Florida, Illinois and Virginia have filed lawsuits on behalf of applicants who faced excessive delays in their quests for citizenship, leading to successful resolution in most cases.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR Strategic Communications Director Ahmed Rehab, Tel: 202-870-0166, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, E-Mail: email@example.com