DHS, USCIS, and FBI Discuss Citizenship Delay at Mosque Foundation
May 18, 2006
CAIR-Chicago hosted a panel of US government representatives last Thursday at the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview in order to explore the reasons behind the widespread delay in Citizenship Applications for members of the Muslim community.
The panel included DHS Community Liaison Carol Hallstrom, Acting District Director of USCIS Jerry Heinauer, and representatives from the FBI spoke as well as Mosque Foundation Associate Director Sheikh Kifah Mostafa and CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab who presided over the program.
Maaria Mozaffar with CAIR-Chicago's Civil Rights department collected and read out questions from the floor, pressing the panel for clarifications and elaborations. CAIR-Chicago's staff attorney Heena Musabji and CAIR-Chicago's communications coordinator, Sultan Muhammad, were also in attendance.
Approximately 100 people attentively listened as the DHS representatives explained some of the reasons behind the delays in processing applications for citizenship. An honest open discussion took place in which members of the community questioned why they were being targeted and waiting for over two years for citizenship. One individual asked:
“Why are we being treated like criminals? We are law abiding Muslims. Why are we having to wait this long.” The representatives responded by assuring that the process is not anti- Muslim; it is bureaucracy that slows down the process.
In response to this claim, the representatives from DHS were questioned on what specific internal reforms were taking place to make the process more efficient and customer friendly. The audience was informed that currently an increase in staff is taking place to handle the large volume of citizenship applications. The representatives explained what USCIS and the FBI can and cannot do in terms of these delays.
Inquiry forms were available on-hand for anyone who wished to file an inquiry on their case. All members on the panel stayed well after the event answering questions for audience members in an effort to clarify polices and alleviate frustration. Many individuals took advantage of this rare opportunity and questioned members on the panel about their specific cases and shared their concerns regarding the entire citizenship process. Intake was also performed on-site for members of the community who wished to address their experience of citizenship delay through CAIR-Chicago’s Citizenship Delay Project.
Of note is a class action lawsuit filed by CAIR-Chicago, the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC), and Competition Law Groups earlier this month. The class action is first of its kind, as it directly asks the DHS and CIS to be held accountable for the numerous delays of citizenship applications submitted by Muslim individuals.