May 4, 2006
This morning, a coalition of attorneys and civil rights activists filed a class action lawsuit arguing that 10 Muslim men who applied for U.S. citizenship are being discriminated against on the basis of their religion and gender.
Although all 10 plaintiffs in the case have fulfilled the requirements to obtain their citizenship and none have criminal records, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has failed for years to issue decisions on their applications. The USCIS is supposed to decide on citizenship applications within 120 days.
CAIR-Chicago is currently assisting more than 80 Muslim men whose naturalization cases have been extraordinarily delayed, like the 10 named Plaintiffs. CAIR chapters across the nation have seen similar numbers. The attorneys for the Plaintiffs say that there appears to be a significant difference between the processing time of naturalization applications for Muslims and that for non-Muslims.
“What we’re trying to figure out is why these Muslim men have their cases delayed for so long, without any explanation,” says Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago. “It seems like good people who have done everything right in their efforts to live the American dream are being penalized for their beliefs and their background.”
“The government needs to do background checks on everyone, but in this case, the applications seem to have disappeared into a black hole,” said Chuck Roth, managing attorney at the Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center (MIHRC), and one of the attorneys in this case. “Muslim men seem to have more problems with this than other groups, which is why we’ve filed on their behalf. But this case is indicative of a bigger problem: once someone’s case gets lost in the immigration bureaucracy, it’s impossible to get the case back on track.” MIHRC is a nonprofit legal service provider that provides free and low-cost legal assistance to individuals applying for citizenship and other immigration benefits.
CAIR-Chicago, MIHRC, and Competition Law Group are filing this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney General. The lawsuit will also address a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about naturalization application processing procedures for Muslim males; the FOIA request was filed by the Arab-American Action Network in November 2004; the government never responded to the request.
TV Interviews can be arranged at the CAIR-Chicago office, downtown Chicago.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Coordinator Christina Abraham, 312-212-1520, E-Mail: email@example.com, CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab, 847-971-3963, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Chuck Roth, 312-660-1613, E-Mail: email@example.com, Mary Meg McCarthy, 312-660-1351, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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