Since 2002, US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been conducting a war, sometimes a covert one, on a disabled US military veteran. The Homeland Security service has worked zealously to deny the Olympia resident the expedited naturalization that President George Bush Jr promised in 2002 to foreign nationals serving in the US military during his war on the Iraqis.
A never-ending, unilateral and secret process
USCIS’ dirty, unrelenting war on the veteran, Zahid Chaudhry, might have come to a conclusion at an October 16 hearing. Judge Paul DeFonzo wanted it to be the final hearing of this long process. But the government’s attorney won an extension to continue the case to another hearing November 7. And it may not end there.
The 15-year war on Zahid has already lasted four times as long as US involvement in World War II. USCIS’ weapon is a program that Homeland Security unilaterally and secretly initiated in 2008. It’s called CARRP (Controlled Application Review and Resolution Process). According to the American Civil Liberties Union, CARRP “prohibits USCIS field officers from routinely approving an application with a potential ‘national security concern.’ They must instead deny the application or delay a final determination, often indefinitely.”
The privileges of a spy agency
CARRP operated covertly for five years until an August, 2013 report by immigration advocates blew the cover off the operation. Even though CARRP is now publicly acknowledged, it still operates with the privileges of a spy agency, not having to reveal to its victims that they are under investigation. CARRP doesn’t have to give its reasons for delaying applications nor do they seem to surrender when their initial suspicions don’t prove reasonable—they simply delay resolution.
Delaying indefinitely the determination that Zahid earned with his military service appears to be their ongoing mission.
Zahid submitted his first Naturalization application, called an N-400, in 2002 while he was still in the service, after the Bush Jr executive order. and before he was honorably discharged. USCIS cashed the $400 check for the application fee — but claimed they lost the paperwork. In 2003, Chaudhry applied again. Again they collected the fee but allegedly lost the paperwork. The next year, Zahid tried again with the same result. (Repeated requests of USCIS to return the fees have not delivered a refund.)
The constitution violated
The larger issue is constitutional. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of a number of other victims of this dirty war. According to the ACLU the suit charged “that the program violates immigration law, and is unconstitutional because it was adopted without any congressional approval and violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.”
It appears that USCIS has taken their mission to be 3 Ds: Delay, Deny, Deport. Delay has been the prime tactic, between “losing” applications and stringing together many hearings. If, via CARRP, an agent cannot readily disqualify an applicant, the agent cannot authorize qualification for citizenship, and is encouraged to go above and beyond to look for (or to create) anything to disqualify the applicant.
The broken tail-light ruse
There is a well-founded perception that immigration authorities routinely target people seeking naturalization with small, non-immigration violations. For example, a police officer looking for a way to apprehend suspected aliens might find a reason to pull over a driver for, say, a tail-light being out. This exact situation has led to the arrest and even deportation of many undocumented individuals for the most minor of equipment violations.
Through the Chaudhry hearings, it seems the USCIS’ attorney was trying for the courtroom equivalent of the broken tail-light. He questioned many of Zahid’s witnesses, and it seemed he was trying to catch them or Zahid in small discrepancies USCIS could use to assert Zahid had lied—giving them cause to reject his application. This didn’t work.
At the October 16 hearing, USCIS won the right to defer the judge’s decision another three weeks by introducing more uncertainty about “biometrics,” attributes such as DNA and fingerprints intended to prove who an applicant is. Zahid has submitted these and they have been accepted by the government—but the USCIS attorney at the hearing suddenly claimed that the biometric evidence hadn’t been completed, arguing that the government needed to do background checks on names Zahid was alleged to have used at some point in the past. Hence another delay.
Staving off a constitutional challenge
The CARRP program’s continuation, even after being publicly exposed, has relied on not having its constitutionality tested in the courts.
Recent cases (like one in the 9th Circuit) are challenging the legality of CARRP. USCIS has attempted to get these cases dismissed as “moot” by quickly giving citizenship to all plaintiff/petitioners in all such lawsuits. When 20 aspiring Americans joined a class suit, their applications quickly got adjudicated and their citizenship granted. USCIS then argued the suit was no longer valid since the plaintiffs’ applications had all been adjudicated. USCIS seeks to prevent judges from making any determinations about the legality of CARRP.
Many of those concerned about immigrant status issues are watching the Zahid Chaudhry case as one that could become a precedent, and not only for this current unconstitutional assault on immigrants’ rights. A decision against Zahid could encourage those sectors looking to devise secret policies and covert programs to use against all Americans. If authoritarian government employees can strip immigrants of legal protections established by the Constitution and by a president’s executive orders, what’s to stop them stripping all US citizens of those protections, too? If Zahid loses, one of you could become their next target.
Marco Cheney is a refugee from InfoWorld. He works in Olympia.
Note: Ann and Zahid wish to thank their many faithful supporters: the stalwart witnesses, those who gathered and spoke at rallies; drivers who took people to and from Seattle; those who traveled from elsewhere; those who were unable to attend but wrote support letters, and the many who prayed and held Zahid and Ann, as Quakers say, “in the light.”