An immigrant from India finally became a citizen on Friday, after a long wait and some legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Hiren Korat, who’s now a resident of Littleton, N.H., a small town located 100 miles north of Manchester, has been living legally in the U.S. for over 10 years.
In 2016, he enlisted in the Army Reserves Select Reserve and served in a medical support unit based in Houston, The New Hampshire Union Leader reported. When he applied for his citizenship in 2017, he expected to become naturalized in a matter of months, after an agreement with the U.S. government.
Korat applied for his citizenship as part of a program run through the Department of Defense called MAVNI, or the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program.
While its implementation is currently being revised, at the time MAVNI allowed “certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the U.S. military and apply immediately for U.S. citizenship,” the Department of Homeland Security website explains, “without first obtaining lawful permanent residence.”
The program, which was only available to applicants with a certain skills, such as “physicians, nurses and experts in certain languages with associated cultural backgrounds,” was a perfect fit for Korat .
After he reported for service, an army representative would acknowledge his “honorable service for purposes of naturalization,” and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would then fast-track his application.
However, a sudden change in the program’s rules derailed his plans.
New citizenship applications were put on hold by the Department of Defense. New background checks deemed him at “moderate” security risk, for purported “financial, loyalty and foreign ties.”
His lawyers explained that, even though he had debt, he never missed a payment. Additionally, his mother had worked as a politician in his native India, but retired in 2012.
In January the ACLU of New Hampshire’s Immigrants’ Rights Project stepped in and filed a civil rights action to compel the USCIS “to complete his naturalization process.”
“Our client fulfilled his end of the bargain, but the United States government has not,” Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director at the ACLU of New Hampshire said in a statement.
“The government’s actions with respect to our client’s rightful application for citizenship are arbitrary, unfair, and unlawful. Our lawsuit asks the government to right this wrong and make good on its promise to naturalize a soldier who is selflessly serving this country,” she continued.
They won, and Korat was finally awarded citizenship this week in Bedford, N.H.
To Devon Chaffee, the executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, the class action suit filed by the organization is about making sure the United States keeps its promises to people like, according to the Union Leader.
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