Immigrants sue US government for excessive citizenship delays

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Current federal law in the United States requires that the government approve or deny a citizenship application within 120 days of an immigrant passing their exam. Many immigrants attempting to become citizens have experienced delays far in excess of this statutory time limit.

On 02 August, ten Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants sued the government for delays that have extended from six months to four years. All have taken their exams, but have received no answer regarding their citizenship status.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the lawsuit asks that a federal judge review their files and administer the oath of citizenship. It also seeks class-action status to include immigrants who have been waiting at least six months after filing applications at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Los Angeles.

There have been several other such suits filed around the country; this one is just the most recent. Muslims and immigrants from the Middle East and Asia have often complained of unexplained delays in the processing of immigration applications. Evidence and statements by officials indicate that extensive background checks are being conducted on individuals since the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the U.S.

A spokesperson for the Citizenship and Immigration Service said only about 1 percent of citizenship applicants wait longer than six months. The agency went on to explain that the specific cases experiencing delays are not being examined by Immigration and Naturalization. The files are being held by the FBI and have not yet been returned to Immigration officials.

The FBI has declined to comment as of this time.

It's taking a lot longer than that for Yousuf Bhaghani, 35, who immigrated from Pakistan 17 years ago. Bhaghani, one of the 10 immigrants in the lawsuit, said he passed the citizenship exam in 2002, and has been waiting for an answer ever since.

"In my heart, I'm already an American in every way," said Bhaghani. "Now I want to be able to fully participate as a citizen."



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