Immigrants sue over years-long naturalization delays

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The organizations that are now suing on behalf of 13 plaintiffs said “USCIS chose to place paper-based immigration files for which it is responsible at a Federal Records Center—operated by NARAand then disclaimed responsibility when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted access to the Center.” The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that these centers have been built within man-made limestone caves Kansas City that had been mostly closed due to the pandemic. That report said that only as of January or so had the National Archives allowed access to a small number of USCIS workers.

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The agency has not prioritized retrieving thesis immigration records (known as ‘A-files’) and scheduling interviews for people who have pending naturalization applications,” AIC and Gibbs Houston Pauw continued. “These applicants facing a loss that other applicants for immigration benefits will not—the right to vote in the November 2022 elections.”

“There are currently 87,500 pending requests for immigration histories with the National Archives, down from a high of 350,000 in January, the agency confirmed,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Not all of those are for citizenship applications.”

USCIS also faced a lawsuit last November over months-long work permit delays. The agency is supposed to process these types of applications within 180 days. But some delays have stretched to nearly a year, leaving applicants and their families “in a precarious position, at risk of losing their jobs, related benefits and, in some states, their driver’s licenses,” said AIC, which also sued on their behalf, alongside Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project and Lakin & Wille LLP.

”Complaint Tony N., a truck driver who delivered personal protective equipment across the country during the pandemic, has lost his driver’s license and his job, and has seen his dreams of starting his own truck driving business indefinitely postponed,” documents said. A second plaintiff, Heghin Muradyan, is a physician who has lost two positions “caring for underserved populations, and as a result, she can no longer provide care to her patients or support herself and her young son.”

In a significant policy announcement, the Biden administration recently said it would be increasing the automatic extension period for expiring work permits, from 180 days to 540 days. This is undoubtedly good news for potentially millions of immigrants. But immigrants who have been waiting for two years and counting for their paperwork now look to the courts for relief.

“I’m very clean, I don’t even have a traffic ticket,” Mohammed told The Wall Street Journal. “With this delay, it is like I am under their focus for whatever reason.”


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