Copyright 2006 Associated Press
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The Associated Press
April 25, 2006 Tuesday 8:13 AM GMT
*SECTION:* DOMESTIC NEWS
*LENGTH:* 497 words
*HEADLINE:* Campaign aims to jump-start stalled naturalization cases
*BYLINE:* By SARAH KARUSH, Associated Press Writer
Despite a requirement that immigration officials rule on naturalization petitions within 120 days, lawyers say delays of several years are not uncommon, particularly for people from the Middle East.
To call attention to the problem and to try to jump-start the cases of dozens of immigrants, an Arab rights group was planning to file federal court petitions across the country Tuesday demanding action.
Forty immigration lawyers are taking part in the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s coordinated filing, said Lema Bashir, a legal adviser for the committee.
The ADC plans to hold news conferences on the initiative Tuesday in Dearborn, Mich., Washington, Dallas and Anaheim, Calif. Petitions are being filed by attorneys in Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Arizona and New Jersey, she said.
Chris Bentley, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, said only about 1 percent of naturalization petitions are not ruled on within 120 days.
Bentley would not comment on the ADC’s planned filings, which would compel officials to act on the naturalization petitions.
Attorney Nabih Ayad, chairman of the ADC’s Michigan advisory board, said immigration officials usually say the delays are caused by FBI background checks. But in some cases, lawyers have been told by the FBI that the background checks were completed long ago, he said.
“The only reason (for the delay) is just their Middle Eastern background,” Ayad said.
Immigration lawyer Ramsey Malkawi said he has about 14 clients facing long delays in their naturalization applications, including some who have waited five or six years.
“This is completely unacceptable,” he said. “It’s clearly a racial profiling issue.”
Dr. Mohammad Attar, an Iraqi immigrant who has lived in the United States since 1991, petitioned for citizenship in November 2004. Six months later, he had an interview with immigration officials then he waited. He was eventually cleared, but it wasn’t until nearly a year after his interview. He was sworn in as a citizen April 14.
“My feeling about it is, it’s OK, they can check, but it took too long,” said Attar, a neonatologist on the faculty at the University of Michigan. “If they were concerned about something, they could have called, and I could have clarified something.”
One of Ayad’s clients, Ali Ali, of Dearborn, works as a truck driver and said he is frustrated. He would like to work for the U.S. military as a translator but needs to obtain citizenship to do so. The 37-year-old Iraqi said he inquired about his case Monday, but was told not to expect anything for a year or two.
“Some people tell me it doesn’t make any difference a green-card holder is the same as a citizen,” Ali said. “But I feel different.”
On the Net:
American-Arab *Anti-Discrimination Committee:* https://www.adc.org
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: http://www.uscis.gov
*LOAD-DATE:* April 25, 2006