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Know Your Rights
Source: NY1
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Terror Arrest Could Mar Naturalization Process, Group Says

Accused terror suspect Faisul Shahzad’s status as a naturalized U.S. citizen has one Queens group concerned about the impact that could have on others who hope to become Americans. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

With hundreds of their members set to go through the process of becoming U.S. citizens, coordinators at Make the Road New York fear the arrest of Faisal Shahzad could slow or change the process for others hoping to gain citizenship.

"It’s a very intense process and we are concerned that because this person was a naturalized citizen there are going to be efforts to try to make it become even more difficult," said Make the Road New York Executive Director Ana Maria Archila.

Shahzad was born in Pakistan. In April of 2009 he became a U.S. citizen after passing the criminal and national security background checks required. The government is reportedly looking at whether he lied during the application process which many here say is quite strict.

"The FBI does a background check on every single application, everyone has to be fingerprinted and if there is a delay in the process of more than six months between the moment of the fingerprints and the moment of the interview the fingerprints have to be repeated again," Archila said.

Before the September 11th attacks, the FBI only did random checks of applicants. Now, everyone who applies is scrutinized.

To apply for citizenship — which costs over $700 — candidates have to be legal permanent residents living in the U.S. for at least five years; three years if you’re married to an American citizen. Potential candidates also have to know English and U.S. history. In addition, they need to show proof of their work, living and travel records before a face to face interview.

"You have to keep a record of the past five years where you lived, where you worked, where you went to school. You have to make sure you documented every time you moved from an address to the U.S. government," said Make the Road New York Youth Coordinator Natalia Aristizabal.

Aristizabal, a Colombian immigrant who became a naturalized citizen in 2008, says she’s hoping the process will not become even more lengthy as a result of Shazad’s arrest.

"I don’t think it has nothing to do with the test or the fact that he passed it. I think it has to do with his mindset," Aristizabal said.

Still, the concern among many is whether any test can reveal what’s really in someone’s mind when so much could be at stake.