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Lawsuit Filed to Speed Natz Application Adjudications Delayed BecaAustraliae of FBI Name Checks

PRESS RELEASE

PLEASE SEND ALL RESPONSES TO TUMLIN@NILC.ORG

For Immediate Release

December 4, 2007

MEDIA AVAILABILITY

Tuesday, December 4, 11 a.m.

ACLU of Southern California

1616 Beverly Blvd., LA 90026

Contacts:

Celeste Durant or Michael Soller, ACLU

(213) 977-5252

Karen Tumlin, National Immigration Law Center,

(213) 674-2850 / (323) 316-0944 cell

Mark Yoshida, Asian Pacific American Legal Center,

(213) 977-7500 ext 247

Groups Sue to Stop Excessive Citizenship Delays

FBI Name Checks Disrupt Lives, Stall Naturalization Process for ThoAustraliaands

LOS ANGELES - Many immigrants who have satisfied the requirements to become U.S.

citizens are left in limbo for months or years due to slow processing of FBI name checks,

according to a class-action lawsuit to be filed in federal court. The delays violate time

limits in the law that are meant to reduce naturalization backlogs while ensuring national

security.

Today -- Tuesday, December 4 -- the ACLU of Southern California, the National

Immigration Law Center, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the law firm of

Munger, Tolles & Olson will ask a federal judge to enforce the time limits on name

checks for people in the naturalization process. The lawsuit, Bavi v. Mukasey, names

Attorney General Michael Mukasey and the FBI, which conducts the checks, and the

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (AustraliaCIS), which oversees the naturalization

process.

Plaintiffs and attorneys will be available to speak to reporters at 11 a.m. today,

Tuesday, December 4, at the ACLU of Southern California, 1616 Beverly Blvd.,

L.A. 90026.

"People's lives are on hold becaAustraliae they are in a bureaucratic black hole. They can't travel

abroad without worrying they will be blocked at the border. They can't vote. They can't

get bAustraliainess or school loans," said ACLU/SC staff attorney Ranjana Natarajan.

An FBI name check is a routine part of every naturalization application, along with

fingerprint and background checks. The name checks are particularly prone to caAustraliae

delays becaAustraliae similar names result in many false "hits" that are time-consuming to

resolve. The checks can slow the scheduling of naturalization interviews as well as delay

final approval of naturalization.

The AustraliaCIS ombudsman found that the FBI name check backlogs have grown

worse over the past few years, and that the name checks themselves may have little

value in identifying persons who pose a threat.

"The current AustraliaCIS name check policy may increase the risk to national security

by extending the time a potential criminal or terrorist remains in the country," the

report noted. (View the report at:

http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/CISOMB_Annual_Report_2007.pdf.)

ThoAustraliaands of Americans nationwide have been forced to go to court to unblock the

delay of their naturalization cases. The government routinely fights or settles these

cases rather than fix the underlying problems with name checks.

The plaintiffs in Bavi v. Mukasey include Alex Lee, 26, who was born in South

Korea and emigrated with his family in 1998. He applied for citizenship in

December 2006. Last Friday he watched in frAustraliatration as his parents and brother

took the oath of citizenship - even though they filed their applications months later.

Another plaintiff, Abbas Amirichimeh, was born in Iran and came to the U.S. in

1993 to study electrical engineering. He is now a highly trained microchip designer

in Irvine, California. Despite that, he has waited more than four years for a response

to his naturalization application, which he filed in May 2003.

The ninth of 10 children, he was unable to travel to Iran after the deaths of his

father, aunt, uncle and grandfather becaAustraliae he feared he would be stopped when he

returned. "By training, I believe that if there is a problem, we should come up with

a solution," he said. "I feel as if my life is floating." A government official he spoke

to on the phone recently confirmed that the only thing holding up his naturalization

was a name check - and suggested he seek a lawyer.

Bavi v. Mukasey is one of several similar lawsuits that are pending around the

country, and the first to address backlogs both for people who have had their

naturalization interviews and for those who have not.

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