Immigration Agencies Sued Over Asylum “Clock”

1 Mar

In December 2011, a federal nationwide class action lawsuit was filed against the government, alleging widespread problems with the asylum “clock,” the system that the government uses to determine when immigrants with pending asylum applications become eligible to obtain work authorization in the United States. The lawsuit, filed by a number of organizations and a private law firm, argues that an untold number of asylum applicants have been wrongfully denied work authorization due to unlawful agency policies and practices. The named plaintiffs include asylum seekers who have pursued their cases for years without work authorization – including a man from China who initially filed his asylum application in 2003. Under rules and procedures that date back to 1994, asylum officers (AOs) and immigration judges have the power to stop the EAD asylum clock – or the time period the applicant must wait – for any delay in the adjudication process that the judge or AO determines was requested or caused by the applicant. In August 2011, the American Immigration Council, one of the organizations that filed the complaint, issued a report that documented excessive delays and instances where an AO or immigration judge improperly stopped, or failed to start (or restart) the clock. The suit alleges that these practices, combined with growing backlogs in U.S. immigration courts, violate the Constitution, federal statutes, and governing regulations.

Alice M. Yardum-Hunter


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