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Lawsuit says citizenship shouldn't depend on paternity test

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An Ethiopian-born woman wants to become a citizen, but she says her father and the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services are blocking her legitimate petition. She filed suit against them Wednesday in federal court.

Sara Jelde came to the United States in 2004, when she was 17. Her mother stayed in Ethiopia, but Jelde moved to Eagan with her father and five siblings. The family splintered, and Jelde has not spoken to her father in several years. Her eldest sister helped her get legal resident status.

Her father refuses to take a paternity test that Immigration Services says it needs to grant Jelde citizenship. Her attorney, P. Chinedu Nwaneri, said she is paying an unfair price. "She believes he is her father," Nwaneri said, adding that he doesn't know why the man will not take the blood test.

The suit also names Immigration Services, saying that “in the unlikely event that the blood or DNA test” raises questions about the relationship with her father, it should not bar her from citizenship.

An immigration official ordered the blood test after he said Jelde answered a question about her father's last name incorrectly.

“Jelde was not represented by counsel at the interview or at the time,” the suit says, adding that her older sister could provide a blood test.

A former Immigration Services spokesman said it was unusual for the government to require a DNA test.

Nwaneri said he hopes Jelde will be granted citizenship. “She is working,” he said. “She has no criminal record. She’s been a good citizen.”

A demographic clearinghouse called Minnesota Compass says more than 10 percent of Minnesota's population is foreign-born. More than 12,000 came from Ethiopia. Eighty percent of immigrants live in the metropolitan area, according to the website.

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