CAIR-Chicago successfully resolved another citizenship delay case this month; Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham and Litigation Director Kevin Vodak had worked on the case for more than two years.
Massoud Nejad, an Iranian-born American resident, first came to the United States from Iran in 1978 to study at the University of Illinois. He became a permanent resident in 2000 and applied for citizenship in December, 2008.
“My first citizenship interview was in April of 2009 and Christina was with me throughout,” Nejad recalls. The United States Central Immigration Services, or USCIS, told Nejad that he would have to wait four months for the final decision on whether his interview was successful or not. If a candidate passes the Citizenship Test, U.S. law mandates USCIS to naturalize applicants within 120 days.
After waiting for more than a year and never receiving a reply from the USCIS, CAIR-Chicago filed a complaint in federal court requesting that Nejad be naturalized. The court remanded the case back to USCIS to make a decision, only to result in USCIS denying Nejad’s citizenship application in October 2010.
The main reason given for denial was failure to report an arrest in 1978. Nejad confirmed that he had, in fact, reported the arrest and that the reason was made up as an excuse to further delay his case.
After continuous appeals by CAIR-Chicago to USCIS, the decision was finally reversed in October of 2011, when Nejad, who has been in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was finally granted U.S. citizenship.
Throughout this time, Nejad faced countless judges, was put on probation for five years for being a political activist in Iran, was arrested several times, and harassed by the FBI. Nejad recalls how FBI agents broke into his apartment in 2008 and questioned his wife about his political past.
“I don’t know what I would have done if CAIR-Chicago was not there to help me. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” Nejad said.
Litigation Director Vodak appreciated USCIS’s cooperation, “We are glad the USCIS made the right decision of granting Nejad citizenship, even if it took them three years to do it.”
In 2010, 22 Muslims attained citizenship through CAIR-Chicago’s intervention. In the past four years, 494 such reports have been received by the organization, out of which 317 cases have been solved.