I entered the U.S as a child and went to renew my green card upon turning 18. My first attempt at renewing was denied because I bounced the check to the treasury department. During my second attempt, 9/11 occurred and the process was completely changed. Through a background check I found out someone else had been using my resident card number. When I went to look into it, the immigration office claimed that they couldn't find my file, making it difficult for me to pass the background part. I got the constant run around for a few years and eventually gave up. Its been considerable time since I last tried, but am determined to renew my card, so I can apply for naturalization.
Assuming that you have never lost your permanent resident status, you don't need to have a new green card in order to apply for naturalization. But considering your problems with getting a replacement green card, it would be a good idea for you to request a copy of your immigration file from the USCIS and see what's in there before filing for naturalization.
Yes, I agree. Background checks were very seriously delayed around that time period. In about 2002-2003 some people got stuck literally for a couple years. Since you seem to know that your fingerprints will match the ones one your record, then I would certainly start with a request under the Freedom of Information Act for your file. The other option would be to apply to naturalize, and if something comes up address it then. FOIA will take longer, applying to natz without knowing what's in your file is riskier in case it turns out there was some other issue.
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