Seattle judge OKs lawsuit over once-secret immigrant vetting program

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones Wednesday denied the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the suit, which was filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

A class-action lawsuit challenging a once-secret government program that delayed immigration and citizenship applications by Muslims can move forward, a Seattle federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones on Wednesday denied the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed in February by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

The lawsuit claims the government since 2008 has used the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program to blacklist thousands of applications for asylum, legal permanent residency or citizenship as national security concerns.

The program imposes criteria on the applications that go far beyond what Congress has authorized, including holding up some applications if the applicants donated to Muslim charities or traveled to Muslim-majority countries, the complaint alleges.

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The program was not publicly discovered until 2012, when an immigration officer discussed it during testimony in a different lawsuit.

Immigrant-rights advocates then filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to force U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to turn over more information about it, the lawsuit said.

“Congress has laid out the requirements for these programs,” Matt Adams, legal director of the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said Thursday. “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.”

In addition to challenging the program, the lawsuit seeks to block any other “extreme vetting” that President Donald Trump’s…

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