Citizenship Delay Project Update

At a meeting with several community-based organizations last week, including CAIR-Chicago, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s Office offered to file a Congressional Inquiry regarding the citizenship delays of immigrants who appear to be mainly from the Middle Eastern, Eastern European Jewish, and Korean communities. In addition, Congressman Bobby Rush’s Office is planning to put together a meeting between several congressional representatives and FBI Headquarters to inquire about the reasons for the delays and discuss possible remedies. Since April 2005, CAIR-Chicago, in collaboration with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), has been working on the Citizenship Delay Project. The project began when a trend was spotted in the community of individuals, mostly males, applying for citizenship, passing all of the necessary requirements, and then waiting for unreasonable periods of time due to pending background checks.

CAIR-Chicago and AAAN immediately began working on the project by conducting outreach at a number of local mosques and community centers while issuing out action alerts and updates on our newsletters and website.

In addition, data has been collected from other CAIR chapters nation-wide that has supported the idea that this is a national issue for Muslims, particularly Muslim males, applying for citizenship. Most of these individuals have been waiting at least a year, many even longer than that.

CAIR-Chicago and AAAN have sent out several inquiries and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests on behalf of the individuals that have come to us with their citizenship delay problem. However, the response, if any, has been vague and uninformative. AAAN also filed a FOIA requesting information on all individuals who have applied for citizenship so as to determine whether certain communities are affected by these delays more than others. The response to the FOIA was that USCIS “could not locate” the information.

CAIR-Chicago, in collaboration with the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) intends to file a class action complaint against DHS and USCIS on behalf of the Muslim males that have been waiting longer than 120 days to obtain citizenship status, of which AAAN will take part in the complaint. CAIR-Chicago and AAAN have been working with MIHRC and other individual attorneys including attorney David Berten, founder of www.asylumlaw.org. Individual complaints will also be filed to accommodate those that do not necessarily fit the class, such as Muslim women, who are also experiencing delays, though on a much smaller scale.

If you or someone you know has passed a citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 90 days, contact us at either civilrights@cairchicago.org or mennakhalil@gmail.com.

copyright © 2005, cairchicago.org