What's at Stake
Seeking to address years-long delays in the processing of citizenship applications, on July 23, 2007 the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of Northern California, and other civil rights organizations filed a class-action lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco against the federal government for its violation of the constitution and federal law. The lawsuit, Ahmadi v. Chertoff, claimed that these unreasonable delays violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The Ahmadi v. Chertoff plaintiffs, long-time legal permanent residents of Northern California, had met all the legal requirements for citizenship, including passing their immigration interview and clearing criminal record checks, but had not been granted citizenship due to a so-called “FBI name check.” This system was expanded in November 2003 to run names of applicants against an overly inclusive database that contains not only the names of criminals and suspects, but also countless innocent persons who happen to come into contact with the FBI, such as crime victims and witnesses.
On Dec. 22, 2008, the suit was settled on appeal after the federal government provided data indicating that the backlog of FBI name checks has been substantially reduced and agreed to provide additional data in the future so that the ACLU can continue to monitor the government’s progress. The 15 named plaintiffs in the Ahmadi case have had their naturalization applications granted and become United States citizens.