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Frequently Asked Questions about the Asylum Clock Class Action Settlement

Introduction

B.H., et al. v. USCIS, et al., which was originally filed as A.B.T., et al. v. USCIS, et al. (hereinafter referred to as the ABT case), is a nationwide class action that challenged the manner in which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) determine an asylum applicant’s eligibility for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  The suit was filed in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington in December, 2011 by the Legal Action Center (LAC) of the American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

The lawsuit challenged five specific EOIR and USCIS policies for administering the “asylum EAD clock”[1] in removal proceedings.  The asylum EAD clock is the tool used by the agencies to calculate whether an asylum applicant has satisfied the 180-day waiting period for eligibility for work authorization.  Asylum applicants are not automatically eligible to receive an EAD while their applications are pending.  Instead, an applicant who is otherwise eligible can receive an EAD only after the asylum application has been pending for 180 days.  The running of the 180-day waiting period is suspended for applicant-requested or caused delay of the adjudication of the asylum application.

The parties reached a settlement of all issues in the case.  The settlement agreement was approved by the district court on November 4, 2013 and will be implemented as of December 3, 2013.  This FAQ will describe the terms of the settlement agreement and the process for implementation.

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Settlement Reached in Class Action Lawsuit Over Arbitrary Asylum Clock

November 5, 2013

Federal Judge Approves Settlement Agreement in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers

On Monday, November 4, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ordered the final approval of a nationwide class action settlement agreement. The settlement will help ensure that asylum seekers, who have fled persecution in their home countries, are not unlawfully prevented from working and supporting their families while the government adjudicates their cases. The changes will commence on December 3, 2013.

The agreement stems from a case filed in December 2011 by the American Immigration Council and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), with co-counsel from the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. The complaint challenged widespread problems with the “asylum clock”—the system government agencies use to determine when immigrants who have applied for asylum may obtain permission to work lawfully in the United States.

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