Challenging USCIS To End Naturalization Application Delays

Challenging USCIS To End Naturalization Application Delays

Carter., v. USCIS, Case No. 1:22-cv-10803-MLW (D. Mass.)


This lawsuit, filed on behalf of U.S. citizenship applicants, challenges U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) unreasonable delay in processing their applications that were filed in 2020.

The intiial suit sought to require the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and USCIS to prioritize the retrieval of immigration files, and USCIS to complete the naturalization process without further delay. Plaintiffs are U.S. lawful permanent residents who applied to become U.S. citizens and who wait for interviews, and their applications remain unadjudicated because their immigration files were stuck in storage. 

USCIS chose to place paper-based immigration files for which it is responsible at a Federal Records Centers—operated by NARAand then disclaimed responsibility when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted access to the Centers. The agency did not prioritize retrieving these immigration records (known as “A-files”) after the Federal Records Centers returned to full capacity operations in March 2022, although USCIS was assisting NARA with file retrieval. USCIS also has not prioritized interviewing people with applications pending because their records were stuck or deciding their applications.

After the lawsuit was filed, NARA completed A-file retrieval, and USCIS scheduled most of the original plaintiffs for citizenship interviews. But USCIS did not commit to prioritizing the naturalization application process—interview, adjudication, and oath ceremony upon application approvalfor plaintiffs or other citizenship applicants who are in a similar situation. On July 1, 2022, an amended complaint was filed, which includes claims on behalf of a proposed class who filed a citizenship application, whose A-files USCIS had stored in NARA Federal Records Centers, and who have not yet been interviewed on their application. 

Naturalization applicants who have not completed the application process because their immigration files were stuck in a Federal Records Center, are prejudiced by USCIS’ delay in a manner unlike any other applicants for immigration benefits. These applicants face a loss that other applicants for immigration benefits will not—the right to vote in the November 2022 elections. 

The lawsuit was filed in the federal district court for the District of Massachusetts by the American Immigration Council and the law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw.

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