More than a year after Heather Aguilar passed a civics test for her citizenship, one last background check is still pending, says the Salt Lake Tribune. I’m left waiting for no apparent reason,” said Aguilar, 31. She’s not alone. More and more immigrants are in limbo, waiting for the FBI to do a name check that shows they have no ties to terrorism. Almost all are given no explanation beyond the fact that the check, added to the standard criminal background investigation after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is still pending.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) contends that fewer than 1 percent of the 8.5 million names submitted to the FBI since December 2002 required “special attention.” Catholic Community Services of Utah has filed federal lawsuits asking a judge to order the government to issue timely decisions in the cases of 23 immigrants. These legal actions join a host of others and across the nation. In the name check, the FBI runs a search through a database that lists not only exact matches but also ones with similar spellings or pronunciations. The number of hits that need follow-up – which often involves manual reviews of FBI files – can cause long waits for final citizenship approval. “It’s ironic that [government officials] claim they have too few resources to decide these applications since the purpose of the name checks is to ensure we don’t have terrorists,” said Salt Lake City attorney David Reymann, who represents immigrants.