Eager to Vote, Muslims File Stack of Lawsuits over Citizenship Delays

May 2, 2008


Source: The Palm Beach Post


Shadi Odeh has lived 17 of his 31 years in the United States.

He is a Palestinian, transplanted at age 14 to Texas, where he was a boisterous Dallas Cowboys fan. In 1999 he moved to South Florida, where he embraced basketball's Miami Heat, which he watches on a wide-screen TV, eating chicken wings and Italian food. His favorite TV show is The Simpsons.

Odeh says he has become an American in every way but one: He has so far been denied citizenship and the right to vote. He very much wants to vote in November - for a Democrat.

"Barack Obama is a very good candidate, but it is also time to have a woman president," he says. "I would vote for one of those two."

The question is whether he will be able to register. Odeh passed his naturalization exam and citizenship interviews in 2006, but FBI name checks have delayed his swearing-in for more than two years.

Those checks, instituted after the Sept. 11 attacks, involve comparing an applicant's name with names in FBI criminal and intelligence files to see whether the person is a security threat. Even if an applicant's name matches only an acquaintance of a suspect or a witness to an event, approval can be delayed.