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Tartakovsky v. Pierre

Last Update: August 1, 2007

What's at Stake

On April 3, 2009, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and cooperating counsel at DLA Piper, LLP, settled the Ninth Circuit appeal in Tartakovsky v. Pierre, a proposed class action lawsuit challenging systemic delays in the naturalization process in the San Diego region. As part of the agreement, the ACLU voluntarily dismissed the appeal after obtaining the release of data demonstrating the government’s progress in reducing the backlog of naturalization delays based on the “FBI name check” procedure. From August 2007, when the Tartakovsky lawsuit was filed, to February 2009, the number of naturalization applicants in the San Diego region with an FBI name check pending for more than 120 days was reduced from 2,564 to zero.

The ACLU brought the Tartakovsky lawsuit as part of a nationwide effort by immigrants’ advocates to challenge systemic delays in naturalization caused by the immigration agency’s decision in 2003 to expand dramatically the databases used for the FBI name check. Rather than checking naturalization applicants’ names against the names of targets and subjects of FBI investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decided to use a database containing the names of any persons coming into contact with FBI, including crime victims, innocent witnesses, and persons who have applied for security clearances. By using this enormously over-inclusive database, USCIS caused prolonged, often years-long delays for tens of thousands of law-abiding immigrants who applied for citizenship.

In March 2009, after being subjected to approximately a dozen proposed class action lawsuits, and countless individual lawsuits challenging naturalization delays, USCIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation undertook a “Joint Business Plan” that committed new resources to eliminating the backlog of delayed FBI name checks for naturalization applicants.

However, to ensure that the government continues to process naturalization applications in a timely manner, the ACLU believes that continued monitoring is essential. We urge community members who have not received a response from USCIS more than 180 days after submitting a naturalization application to contact us at

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