A Seattle judge gave the go-ahead to a class action lawsuit challenging a once-secret government program which delayed Muslims’ citizenship and immigration applications.
U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denied a Justice Department motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Wednesday.
The Star Tribune reports the case was originally brought to court by the American Civil Liberties Union, working in tandem with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
The complaint claims that, since 2008, the federal government used the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program to single out certain Muslims who had filed applications for asylum, residency, and citizenship, citing national security concerns.
While the government is allowed some leeway in declaring particular people potential risks to national security, the ACLU and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project say a line between legality and immorality was crossed.
The program enforced by the government allegedly blacklisted would-be migrants and citizens for having simply donated to Muslim-run charities or traveled to Muslim-majority countries.
Information about the program was largely kept under lock and key. It wasn’t discovered or made publicly available until an immigration officer referenced it as part of his testimony in another court case.
Soon after, Freedom of Information Requests were filed. The government was obliged to hand over documents pertaining to the program and its probing of legal protections.
“Congress has laid out the requirements for these programs,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Groups. “The agency doesn’t have the authority to, one, impose its own requirements, and two, impose them in a secret program on people who aren’t even aware of them.”
The requirements Adams likely referred to are those that dictate the granting of citizenship as well as the decision-making process and leeway afforded to U.S. consular officers and government officials.
The Star Tribune noted that a spokeswoman from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Sharon Rummery, said the agency wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.
However, the Justice Department claims in its defense that the program is legal, acting as a sort of background for would-be migrants and want-to-be citizens.
“It is a way for USCIS to investigate and verify information in certain cases, and to ensure reasoned decisions,” argued the Department of Justice.
Several other lawsuits had been filed across the country, all in relation to the program and its lengthy, imposed delays.
Most never progressed, as the plaintiffs found the USCIS quickly making decisions on their application within days of going to court.