INTERNATIONAL

Immigrants sue U.S. Government



LOS ANGELES: Ten West Asian and Asian immigrants sued the U.S. Government for allegedly letting their U.S. citizenship applications linger indefinitely by delaying background checks.

The suit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, asks that a Federal judge review the files and administer the oath of citizenship.

It also seeks class-action status to include all immigrants who have been waiting at least six months for naturalisation after filing applications at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Los Angeles.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Muslims and immigrants from West Asia and Asia have often complained of unexplained delays in the processing of immigration applications. The Southern California suit follows a handful of others across the country in recent years.

``Whether the delays are based on discrimination or incompetence, they have to end,'' said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed the suit.

``Muslims will not accept any longer being treated as second-class citizens by this administration.'' Sharon Rummery, spokeswoman for the Citizenship and Immigration Service, said only about 1 per cent of citizenship applicants wait longer than six months.

``I have no idea why some take longer,'' said Ms. Rummery, who added her agency cannot process an application until the FBI returns the background check. Special Agent Richard Kolko said the FBI had not seen the suit and could not comment.

Legal permanent residents, or ``green card'' holders, can apply for citizenship if they have lived in the country a certain number of years, speak English fluently and pass a citizenship exam. AP

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