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Would-be WA Citizens Sue After 2 and 3-Year Waits

October 30, 2007

Seattle, WA – A few Washington residents won't be casting ballots in next week's statewide election -- because they can't. Four Washingtonians who want to be U.S. citizens say they've waited too long to get approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They've filed a lawsuit in Seattle this week on behalf of other immigrants who are in similar situations.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project says these four cases are representative of at least 100 others around the state. Doug Honig, communications director for the ACLU of Washington says the plaintiffs have been told the delays are to double-check that they are not security risks, but they didn't expect it to take years for that to happen.

"The people we're representing have already completed FBU criminal background checks, and so they already have gotten a fair amount of scrutiny. And if, in fact, they were to have some connection to a security threat, that should be dealt with quickly."

Honig explains it's been hard for the plaintiffs to do things that most Americans take for granted, such as travel and vote.

"I think they're all very frustrated, because it leaves them in limbo. So they're suing because somebody needs to come in and make the federal government obey the law."

Honig says U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has 120 days to make a decision after a person has passed a citizenship exam. The four individuals argue they completed their exams two to three years ago. The suit, filed in federal court in Seattle on Monday, seeks class-action status on behalf of others who are experiencing similar delays.

Chris Thomas/John Robinson, Public News Service - WA