By Nick Baumann
A previously unknown Bush administration program continued under President Barack Obama grants the FBI and other national security agencies broad authority to delay or squash the immigration applications of people from Muslim countries, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Under the program, immigrants can be designated “national security concerns” based on the flimsiest of rationales, such as coming from a “suspicious” country. Other criteria that can earn an immigrant this label include wiring money to relatives abroad, attending mosques the FBI has previously surveilled, or simply appearing in FBI case files.
“This policy is creating a secret exclusion to bar many people who are eligible for [citizenship] because…of their national origin or religion or associations,” says Jennie Pasquarella, the ACLU lawyer who authored a new report on the program, which is called the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP). “It’s doing this without the knowledge of the public, without the knowledge of applicants, and without, we believe, the knowledge of Congress.”
The criteria laid out under CARRP, which took effect in April 2008, are used to process nearly every immigration application. But once the FBI or another government agency flags an immigrant as a potential national security threat, that person’s application for citizenship or permanent residency is shunted off into a separate system, where it lingers and is almost invariably rejected. The immigrants who have been labeled “national security concerns” have no way to know about or contest the decision.