US Government Relents and Will Swear in Latina Soldier Who Sued for Delaying Her Citizenship Application

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 20, 2017

Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org

A Latina soldier in the United States Army Reserve who sued the US Government for indefinitely delaying her citizenship application was sworn in today.

Ellen Da Silva was notified last week by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that she could take the oath of citizenship on March 20th. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had originally asked her to attend an additional interview on March 27th.

But her lawyer, LatinoJustice Managing Attorney Kira Romero-Craft, called an Assistant US Attorney at the local DOJ office and requested that Da Silva be allowed to take the oath of citizenship. The DOJ approved.

“I’m extremely proud to wear the uniform and defend this country that I love so much and I am super proud that I was sworn in to be a US citizen,” said Da Silva.

Da Silva filed the complaint and petition for mandamus against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The Department of Defense should recognize the value that these people offer our country through their service and their desire to become citizens,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Ellen did her service and deserved a fair hearing and process.”

The complaint-petition, filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, charged the USCIS with violating legal requirements that a decision on an application for citizenship must be made within 120 days of the naturalization exam. DaSilva passed her naturalization exam on April 25, 2017, and USCIS immediately scheduled her oath soon after, only to subsequently notify Da Silva that her ceremony was being canceled the day prior to the event.

The lawsuit demanded that the USCIS processing application immediately or in the alternative, that the District Court held a hearing to review Da Silva’s naturalization case and make a decision on her case.

Da Silva was represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Ellen cried and cried that finally this long process promised to her would take place,” said Romero-Craft. “Ellen had been through several interviews and all kinds of backgrounds checks and it was her right to finalize this process. She and her family are thrilled that this will take place.”

The complaint charged that the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS have stopped processing naturalization applications based upon unlawful directives issued by the Department of Defense in 2017. The department’s order requesting additional security vetting of soldiers has no basis under existing naturalization law, according to Kira Romero-Craft, Managing Attorney of LatinoJustice’s Southeast Regional Office in Orlando, Florida.

Da Silva had filed for naturalization under the Military Accessions to the Vital National Interest, or MAVNI program which was designed to recruit noncitizens with specialized medical training or critical language skills. The program which was implemented in 2009 offered recruits a fast track to citizenship in exchange for their military service and has been used as a successful recruitment program by the military since then.

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