Jenny Pasquarella and Ahilan Arulanantham

Tarek Hamdi has lived in the United States for decades. His wife was born here. He raised four daughters here. He works here. He pays taxes here.

But when Tarek decided to become a citizen like the rest of his family, the U.S. government blacklisted him to prevent him from gaining citizenship. The reason? His Muslim faith.

Tarek is far from alone. Under a secret — and previously unknown — national security program, the government has barred thousands of eligible, law-abiding immigrants from becoming citizens, obtaining green cards and securing other immigration benefits. The program purportedly excludes those who pose a national security threat. But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — the agency tasked with administering immigration benefits — has used the program to sweep up innocent, law-abiding Muslim immigrants, delaying and denying their applications — all without legal authority. This covert program sends one strong message to aspiring Americans: Muslims need not apply. [Read more…]