On April 1, 2008, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, two named plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against the heads of the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and of Justice, the directors of the FBI and of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), and the Philadelphia district's acting district director of USCIS. The plaintiffs alleged they were lawful permanent residents who applied to the USCIS to become naturalized U.S. citizens, but whose applications had not been adjudicated within six months of their submission because of governmental delay in completing, for each application, a background check referred to as an "FBI name check." According to plaintiffs, a USCIS policy change in November 2002 required, without statutory or regulatory authorization, completion of an expanded FBI name check on every application and the FBI's implementation of that expanded process caused systemic, unnecessary, and prolonged delays in the naturalization process, all without corresponding security or other public benefit. The complaint alleged that the needless delays deprived plaintiffs and their class of the privileges of citizenship in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and the Fifth Amendment's due process clause. Plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and by attorneys from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, HIAS & Council Migration Services of Philadelphia, and the National Services Center, Inc.
Citing relevant federal statutes and regulations, the complaint described in detail the process triggered by a naturalization application, including the conduct of three types of government database searches: a "criminal background check," a name check through the Interagency Border Inspection System ("IBIS") database, and the FBI name check. Among the statutes cited, plaintiffs noted that 8 U.S.C. § 1571(b) stated, as the sense of Congress, that an application for naturalization should be completely processed no more than 180 days following its' submission. Applications not finally adjudicated within that time period, according to plaintiffs, were presumptively unreasonably delayed. The named plaintiffs alleged that, in addition to being precluded from participating in the electoral process, the delay in naturalization precluded their receipt of needed benefits to help address medical and age-related disabilities.
The plaintiffs sought that the court certify a class described as "[a]ll lawful permanent residents who have submitted or will submit applications for naturalization to the USCIS District Office located within Pennsylvania, and whose applications for naturalization remain unadjudicated more than 180 days after the date of submission, because of pending FBI name checks." Seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, the complaint asked that the court (a) suspend FBI name checks until the defendants complied with the APA's notice and comment provisions, (b) set time deadlines for completion of FBI name checks (90 days) and adjudication of naturalization applications (180 days), and (c) have the defendants pay plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs.
The clerk assigned the case to District Judge Paul S. Diamond on April 18, 2008. An amended complaint, filed on April 22, 2008, added plaintiffs. In May 2008, the defendants filed both a motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and a memorandum in opposition to the motion for class certification. In early June 2008, plaintiffs filed responsive pleadings to these defense efforts.
The plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on October 8, 2008. On December 22, 2008, their motion to certify class was denied. After some discovery, in May 2009 the parties stipulated that the plaintiffs agree to dismiss their claims without prejudice.Mike Fagan - 07/02/2008
Nadji Allan - 10/02/2014