New ACLU Report Examines Secretive Policy Used to Delay and Deny Immigrants’ Green Card and Citizenship Applications

Based on newly unsealed records, this is the first comprehensive account of DHS’s CARRP program in almost a decade

July 10, 2024 10:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) today released a white paper on the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) secretive vetting policy, which places thousands of green-card and citizenship applicants in “immigration purgatory” without due process.

Delay and Deny: How the U.S. Government Condemns Aspiring Americans to Immigration Purgatory, is the first comprehensive account of the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) and its harms in almost a decade. The paper includes information from newly unsealed records from a class action lawsuit the ACLU, NWIRP, and partners have been litigating since 2017. These records, which the ACLU has also made public, confirm that USCIS puts people in CARRP processing even if they’ve done nothing wrong.

CARRP — which was never approved by Congress — is designed to create delays and facilitate denials. Since 2008, USCIS has used CARRP to brand otherwise eligible applicants as “national security concerns” based on vague suspicion. It then quietly removes their applications from normal review and subjects them to a long, onerous process of extreme vetting. When an application for citizenship or a green card is placed in CARRP, USCIS can spend years searching for a reason to deny it — for any reason, even an applicant’s paperwork error. All the while, the agency never provides notice that applicants have been subject to CARRP or explains its “concerns,” leaving them in the dark about their futures.

As the new report details, USCIS’s definition of a “national security concern” does not require illegal activity; on the contrary, the agency teaches immigration officers that people may be deemed national security concerns based on innocuous characteristics like where they come from, who they know or are related to, their religious activity, the languages they speak, and their professions.

Newly released records in the report also reveal:

  • Long Delays: On average, between October 2012 and September 2019, green-card and citizenship applicants subject to CARRP waited more than 20 months for USCIS to decide their applications, compared to eight months for those not subject to CARRP. In many instances, applications ready for a decision have remained dormant for no known reason.
  • CARRP is Discriminatory: Immigration officers place green-card applicants from Muslim-majority countries in CARRP at over 10 times the rate of other applicants, while citizenship applicants from Muslim-majority countries are routed into CARRP at 12 times the rate.
  • Vastly Higher Denial Rates: While USCIS’s denial rate for green-card and citizenship applications is generally 7.5 percent, applications placed in CARRP but eventually cleared of USCIS’s “national security concern” were denied at nearly double the rate of applicants never placed in CARRP.

“USCIS unilaterally created a discriminatory program that is both unlawful and unnecessary,” said Charlie Hogle, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “USCIS should rescind CARRP instead of continuing to defend it and harming people who are simply seeking the welcome, safety, and opportunity that our country promises. Unless and until the government reverses course, we will keep fighting this due process nightmare.”

On July 19, the ACLU and its partners will appear before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to argue on behalf of individuals who have been subjected to and harmed by CARRP.

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