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    'I am an American'

    June 16, 2006

    Alan Rauf was two days away from becoming a U.S. citizen in December when Homeland Security officials halted the process because his name popped up during background checks on terrorist investigations.

    NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
    Alan Rauf, a 37-year-old Titan Corp. linguist who fled Iraq with his family in 1997, took the Oath of Allegiance yesterday at the federal building in downtown San Diego.
    Yesterday, in less than a minute, Rauf's battle with the Homeland Security bureaucracy ended at the federal building in downtown San Diego.

    “I am an American,” the Kurdish refugee said after carefully repeating the Oath of Allegiance. “Alan Rauf – American citizen.”

    Rauf, a 37-year-old linguist for the San Diego-based defense contractor Titan Corp., has been working in Iraq for the U.S. military since March 2004.

    The problem with his citizenship application was triggered by his decision in 2003 to change his name from Alladdin Abdul Naqshbandi to Alan Rauf, which he thought sounded more American.

    The plan backfired, though, because Rauf is a relatively common name in Iraq and a tougher name to track than Naqshbandi, said his lawyer and government officials.

    Rauf's family – including his parents, four sisters and three brothers – was evacuated from northern Iraq by the United States in 1997, after Rauf, who was working for international aid organizations, opposed Saddam Hussein. Thousands of Kurds were slain under the regime of the former Iraqi president, who is on trial for charges of crimes against humanity.

    Rauf's family eventually settled in El Cajon.

    Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has re-examined more than 2.7 million names on applications ranging from visas to naturalization forms once a first check was made by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    NELVIN CEPEDA / Union-Tribune
    After the swearing-in ceremony, Rauf was presented with his Certificate of Naturalization and a small American flag.
    The investigation into Rauf's background progressed so slowly that his job with Titan was briefly jeopardized. Finally, he filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego against the Department of Homeland Security seeking his citizenship and hoping to clear his name. As his case progressed, he made several trips from Iraq to San Diego to meet immigration authorities.

    Rauf's attorney, Cheri Attix, said a culture of secrecy permeated the case. At one point, she said authorities told her they were “not at liberty” to disclose certain information.

    “I hope that in the future our government will find a way to prioritize and expedite the naturalization of men and women like Alan who contribute so much to our country,” Attix said.

    A Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case, said Rauf's job with the military contributed to the delay.

    “The fact that (Rauf is) in a sensitive position in the military is all the more reason that the (reviews) have to be done carefully,” the official said.

    When Rauf got word in Iraq last month that he had cleared all the Homeland Security hurdles, he said the troops he works with threw a party for him – complete with a cake decorated with miniature American flags.
    In an e-mail from Iraq, he said, “It was one of my dreams to become a U.S. citizen because I believe this is the best country in the world.”

    “And now,” he said yesterday, “I am a citizen of that country.”

    Rauf wore a new blue-and-white striped dress shirt that showed the creases from the package. Although he was weary from his 27-hour trip from Iraq on Wednesday night, he was beaming like a high school student on graduation day.

    He finished signing some documents, then Debra Rogers, San Diego district director for Citizen and Immigration Services, asked whether he was ready to take the oath.

    “Yes, I am,” he said with conviction.

    He stood in front of an American flag and raised his right hand.

    “I will support – and defend – the Constitution,” he said, emphasizing each word.

    Rauf was accompanied by his father, Abdul Naqshbandi, who with two of Rauf's sisters also applied for citizenship. Naqshbandi said Rauf's mother would soon file an application, too

    Alan “is the pioneer, and we want to follow,” Naqshbandi said. “This is a great country and we want to be part of it as a family.”

    Rauf says he's looking forward to re-joining his Army unit. His job there won't change: He'll still be working for the military police and translating in stifling 130-degree heat.

    But one thing will be different: For the first time, he'll be in Iraq as a U.S. citizen.

  2. #2
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    God Bless America. I love to hear about new Americans sworn in. He may have had a hard time at the end of the process, but now we have one more person to fight the dirty bastards.



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