Crime & Justice

Federal agency settles lawsuit over backlogged citizenship applications

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Hundreds of immigrants in the Southland will get the opportunity to become U.S. citizens now that the federal government has settled a 2-year-old class action lawsuit by civil rights groups.

For seven years, the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has required FBI background checks on people who apply for U.S. citizenship. Immigrants’ rights groups contended that the routine checks caused delays that lasted for years despite federal laws that require the agency to process applications within six months.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center filed a class action lawsuit in 2007. They wanted to address a backlog they say was holding up thousands of applications with no explanation.

The settlement requires the federal government to process hundreds of applications in the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Bernardino areas within six months. It must also provide data on naturalization in the interest of preventing future bottlenecks.