Lawsuit Challenges Unreasonable Delays in Granting Citizenship
SEATTLE -- In a class-action lawsuit filed today, four people in the Seattle area are challenging the federal government's unlawful and unreasonable delays in handling their applications to become U.S. citizens. All are legal permanent residents who have waited years for the government to make a decision on their requests to become citizens — far beyond the 120-day deadline specified in federal law.
Representing them are the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), and Rita Latsinova and Alfred Day from the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
"The government's failure to act leaves these individuals in limbo. Many of them have spouses and children who are U.S. citizens, and they worry that when traveling, they might be prevented from returning to their homes in America. They also want to be able to vote and participate fully in civic life," said Sarah Dunne, Legal Director of the ACLU of Washington.
"Our clients are already lawful permanent residents who have put down roots in the community. Denying their rights to become citizens when they have fulfilled all legal requirements doesn't make us safer, it just undermines democracy," said Matt Adams, interim Executive Director of NWIRP.
Federal law says that the government must make a determination on naturalization applications within 120 days for individuals who have successfully completed their citizenship examinations. In recent years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has routinely disregarded this deadline in order for the FBI to conduct "name checks," which are not required by regulation or statute, even though the applicants have already been cleared through separate FBI criminal background checks. As a result, many applicants have been waiting needlessly for years to become citizens.
The lawsuit seeks to have the government complete name checks for plaintiffs and issue a decision on their naturalization applications within 90 days.
The problem of unreasonable delays is widespread. NWIRP is aware of nearly 100 local immigrants whose naturalizations are overdue, and attorneys for the plaintiffs believe that hundreds more in Washington are facing similar delays. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit to cover the numerous people affected by the government's inaction.Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are:
- Dr. Vafa Ghazi-Moghaddam, an electrical engineer for a software company developing wireless technologies and a resident of Seattle. He came to the U.S. from Iran on a student visa in 1991 to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota and has been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 1999.
- Lin Huang, a resident of Renton who lives with her husband and their two children. She came to the U.S. from China based on a visa petition that her husband, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, filed on her behalf. She has been a lawful permanent resident since 1996. Her two children were born here and are U.S. citizens.
- Dr. Roshanak Roshandel, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Seattle University and a resident of Bellevue. She came to the U.S. from Iran on a student visa in 1996, earned her undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degrees in this country, and has been a lawful permanent resident since 2001. Her husband is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and their daughter, who was born in the U.S., is also a citizen.
- Hawo Ahmed, a student at Highline Community College in Des Moines and a resident of SeaTac. She and her family came to the U.S. as refugees from Somalia, and she has been a lawful permanent resident since 2000. Her mother and sisters are naturalized citizens.