Hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have satisfied the requirements for U.S. citizenship are left in limbo by the U.S. government for months and even years. They pay taxes and legally work, but are unable to vote, afraid to travel, and face severe restrictions on their employment and personal lives.

The ACLU of Southern California and other groups have filed a class-action lawsuit targeting one of the main causes of citizenship backlogs: FBI "name checks" that have little national security value. A government report said the name checks "may increase the risk to national security by extending the time a potential criminal or terrorist remains in the country."

The lawsuit asks the federal government to enforce time limits meant to reduce backlogs while ensuring national security. Federal rules allow the government 180 days to give applicants a yes-or-no answer on citizenship. The four plaintiffs in the lawsuit each have waited more than 300 days.

Another plaintiff, James Moorhead, was born in England and has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. He has awards from Congress and the city and county of L.A. for foiling an armed robbery. Despite his positive record, he has been waiting more than a year since his immigration interview was abruptly canceled last year.

Photo: James Moorhead, a native of Great Britain, won awards for bravery after foiling an armed robbery, but he's waited more than a year for a response to his citizenship application.