Challenging USCIS for Delays in Renewal of Employment Authorizations

Tony N. v. USCIS, Case No. 3:21-cv-08742 (N.D. Cal.)


Through rulemaking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) committed to processing employment authorization document renewal applications for asylum applicants within the 180-day automatic extension of employment authorization. Yet, USCIS regularly fails to do so, leaving asylum seekers and their families in a precarious position, at risk of losing their jobs, related benefits and, in some states, their driver’s licenses.

This nationwide class action lawsuit challenged USCIS’ failure to timely renew work authorizations for asylum workers in the United States and sought to compel USCIS to take necessary steps to address delays and timely adjudicate employment authorization renewal applications for asylum applicants. 

The complaint alleged that USCIS’ unlawful log-jam is unnecessary and that the agency “has already determined that each of these asylum seekers are authorized to work ... [and that plaintiffs] seek to renew their employment authorization document so they may maintain or resume their employment and support themselves and their families while awaiting adjudication of their asylum claims.”

After hearing arguments in a motion for preliminary injunction and motion for class action challenging USCIS’s extreme delays and failure to process work authorization renewals for asylum seekers, Senior District Judge Maxine M. Chesney denied the motions on December 22, 2021. On January 21, 2022, the government filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that because USCIS had renewed the five plaintiffs’ EADs, they had no other claims the court could resolve. Plaintiffs opposed on the ground that there was a “reasonable expectation” that plaintiffs would need to renew, and would again lose their work authorization due to USCIS’ delay. Plaintiffs pointed out that USCIS took between over 7 and over 11 months to process their EAD renewals, which resulted in all five plaintiffs losing their jobs. Plaintiffs also acknowledged that to deny the motion, the court would have to reconsider aspects of its December 2021 decision. However, on March 2, 2022, the court dismissed the lawsuit, deciding that plaintiffs could not show the same controversy would recur because their next EAD renewals were too far in the future.

The lawsuit was filed at the federal district court in the Northern District of California by the American Immigration Council, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, and Lakin Wille, LLP.

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