ACLU Files Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Based On Muslim Religion

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 2.55.12 PM.pngObtaining U.S. citizenship is often the ultimate dream for many foreign nationals who come to this country and apply for permanent residence. By receiving U.S. citizenship, nationals become entitled to hold a U.S. passport, are empowered to vote in regional and national elections, and become eligible to receive many other important benefits that are reserved to citizens.

The process of acquiring U.S. citizenship is called naturalization. In most circumstances, U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) may apply for naturalization with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) once they have been permanent residents for five years (or three years if the residency was obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen). For more information on the naturalization process, visit the USCIS website here.

The normal processing timeframe for naturalization applications is typically between four and six months. However, for any number of reasons, any given application may experience lengthy delays, and some applicants wait for up to a year to receive their citizenship.

In rare cases, naturalization applications can even be denied by the U.S. government. Denials may result from a criminal background, mistakes in the application itself, or other reasons. Recently, five naturalization applicants filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government because they feel their applications were denied solely because they are from Muslim-majority home countries.

Of course, the official reason for the denial of the applications was not the applicants' home countries. Rather, USCIS denied the applications on "counterterrorism grounds."

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, along with the national branch of the ACLU and two private immigration law firms, filed the lawsuit on the basis that the program that created the counterterrorism grounds for denial is unconstitutional, since the program was enacted without Congress's approval and also violates the Fifth Amendment right of due process.

The program, which is called the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) was implemented unilaterally by USCIS itself in 2008. Under its provisions, USCIS adjudication officers cannot approve a naturalization application that may have a potential "national security concern." Instead of approving such an application, the office must either deny it or delay the final decision indefinitely.

The lawsuit charges that the definition of national security concern used in the CARRP program is overbroad and casts a wider net than other similar provisions in other parts of immigration laws. The lawsuit highlights that because Congress did not approve the program, the program itself was not devised in such a way as to be consistent with the body of existing immigration law.

As of the date of the lawsuit, USCIS has not specifically released the number of naturalization applicants who have been subject to the CARRP provisions, but the agency's other available data shows that between 2008 and 2012, nearly 20,000 applicants from Muslim-majority countries or areas were reviewed pursuant to the CARRP program.

Are you worried that your own naturalization application may be delayed or denied? Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to speak to a knowledgeable immigration attorney about your case.

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Judiciary Committee Passes The Legal Workforce Act, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 15, 2013
Changing Minds About Immigration: UFW's "Take Our Jobs" Campaign, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 21, 2010

Immigration News / by Michelle Gee