The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unlawfully delays the citizenship applications of Muslim immigrants due to a secretive immigration program, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in St. Louis.
The lawsuit — filed by the Hacking Law Practice on behalf of 13 Muslim immigrants in the Eastern District of Missouri — alleges that the “USCIS has applied different rules under a policy known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP), which has resulted in the agency refusing to adjudicate Plaintiffs’ applications.”
CARRP, which first began in 2008, is designed to identify security risks among immigrants who apply for visas, asylum, green cards, and naturalization in the U.S.
“Plaintiffs bring this action to compel the USCIS to finally — after years of waiting — adjudicate their pending applications for naturalization as required by law,” the complaint states.
In January, a BuzzFeed News investigation revealed how the FBI, against their own guidelines, offered immigration assistance to Muslim immigrants affected by CARRP’s delays in exchange for spying on their friends, family, and communities.
Jim Hacking, lead attorney on the case, said CAARP discriminates against Muslims, since it “holds Muslim immigration applicants to a higher legal standard.”
“What my clients want is simple: they want what the law provides. They want to be vetted like everyone else, and treated like every other person applying for citizenship. The USCIS has unilaterally taken it on themselves to hold Muslims to a higher scrutiny. They find themselves in this black hole where they can’t get out. There’s no recourse for them," Hacking said.
"This is a huge violation of people who are trying to be good citizens and good Americans,” said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-Missouri, a Muslim civil liberties organization. “And what's truly disturbing is that there is no way to challenge your inclusion in the program, it was not authorized by Congress and there is no deadline to resolve these cases. Muslims living in America who are qualified to become citizens have to wait for years because of this discriminatory program."
Hacking and Syed, along with a couple plaintiffs in the lawsuit, will hold a press conference about the lawsuit on the steps of the U.S. Federal Courthouse in St. Louis on Thursday.
For years immigration lawyers and civil liberty organizations have claimed that CARRP is unconstitutional because it violates the right to due process and the right to a timely review of immigration files as guaranteed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
In addition, this latest lawsuit says that the Constitution gives Congress, not the executive branch, under which USCIS resides, “the authority to establish uniform rules of naturalization.”
All 13 plaintiffs — men and women whose ages range from 19 to 61 — in the lawsuit are lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who emigrated from various countries, including Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Bosnia, Nigeria, Albania, and Palestine.
A similar lawsuit against the USCIS and CARRP on behalf of five Muslims immigrants was filed in 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. It was later withdrawn after the plaintiffs suddenly had their applications processed, following years of delay.
Due to its secretive nature, it is unclear how many people currently fall under CARRP, nor what fraction is Muslim. What is known is that between 2008 and 2012, the case files of over 19,000 people from 18 Muslim-majority countries were rerouted through that program.
Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2
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