CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Coordinator Christina Abraham attended a meeting with several community based organizations and local representatives’ offices regarding the growing problem of citizenship delays among immigrants.
Among the organizations represented were the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC), Congresswoman Jan Schackowsky’s office, Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s office, and Congressmen Bobby Rush’s office.
The meeting discussed the various issues surrounding the unreasonable delays in conducting background checks, including inefficiencies in the administrative process and possible discrimination.
CAIR-Chicago maintained that the inefficiencies in the administrative process merely highlight the systematic discrimination. Only three groups have reported experiencing wide-spread delays in the citizenship process by members of their community: the Muslim community, Eastern Europeans from the former Soviet Union, and the Korean community. CAIR-Chicago believes that these communities are being subjected to extra scrutiny in the background checks because, in the case of Muslims and Koreans, they either come from countries formerly on the NSEERS list or have names similar to other individuals who come from such countries.
The NSEERS list was developed in 2001 in response to 9-11, and required individuals from those countries – essentially all Muslim countries and North Korea – to go for special registration. The registration, which led to the detainment and deportation of thousands of immigrants, was cancelled after civil rights groups objected to the blatant racial profiling by the government.
HIAS has not yet determined why they believe Eastern Europeans, particularly Jews, are being delayed in their citizenship process, but they have not ruled out the possibility that the government is still screening for Communists, or former Communists. The question “Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” is still asked on the USCIS Naturalization Application.
The group is planning on collaborating with local representatives’ offices in outreaching to their respective community members to come forward if they are experiencing this problem. Local representatives’ offices have also agreed to meet with government officials and file inquiries for more information regarding the issue.
CAIR-Chicago and the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) have been working on the Citizenship Delay Project since early this year, and plan to file a class action complaint against USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the aid of MIHRC within the next few weeks.
If you have been experiencing a delay in obtaining your citizenship after passing all of the necessary requirements, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information, or call 312 212 1520.
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