ACLU: Muslims face more scrutiny to get citizenship

By Amy Taxin
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Civil liberties advocates say they have uncovered a government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns that has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that federal immigration officers are instructed to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern.

For example, they’ll flag discrepancies or claim they failed to receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.
“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the report’s author.

It was not immediately clear how many immigrants have been reviewed under the program, which began in 2008 and is formally known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program.

Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency routinely checks the background of immigrants applying for benefits and puts the country’s safety, and the integrity of the immigration system, first.

“We are vigilant in executing these responsibilities, and will not sacrifice national security or public safety in the interest of expediting the review of benefit applications,” Bentley said in a statement.

Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about
the immigrant.

Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time.
 

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