FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 28, 2023
TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS APPLICANTS GRANTED NATIONWIDE CLASS CERTIFICATION IN ACTION DEMANDING USCIS HONOR THEIR RIGHT TO WORK
Seattle, WA – On Friday, a federal district court granted nationwide class certification to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants seeking to enforce their statutory right to a work permit during the many months that they wait for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate their TPS applications. TPS is a form of humanitarian relief that provides temporary lawful immigration status to eligible immigrants from war-ravaged or disaster-stricken countries. Federal law requires that USCIS grant eligible TPS applicants interim work authorization during the pendency of their TPS applications so they can support themselves and their families. Despite this statutory guarantee, USCIS does not issue temporary work permits upon receipt of TPS applications, but instead waits until the applications are ready for full merits adjudications before even considering granting work authorization. This denial of interim work authorization creates significant hardship as most applicants for TPS wait for close to a year, and sometimes longer, before their applications are approved.
On August 25, Judge James L. Robart of the Western District of Washington certified a class comprised of “all individuals who have submitted or will submit an initial application establishing prima facie eligibility” for TPS “who have not received a final decision on the TPS application, and who have not been issued employment authorization documentation incident to their pending TPS application.” Class members need not do anything to participate in the current litigation. Earlier this month, Judge Robart denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case except as to one named plaintiff.
Plaintiffs are represented by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), and the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli & Pratt (KKTP).
“Plaintiffs now can move forward with their challenge to USCIS’ policy and practice of failing to grant interim work authorization, which unlawfully deprives tens of thousands of TPS applicants of the ability to support themselves and their families,” said Trina Realmuto, NILA’s executive director. “Some TPS applicants wait nearly two years before USCIS adjudicates their applications and grants work authorization; that’s two years that they could have been working but were denied the ability to do so because of USCIS’ policy and practice.”
“For too long, USCIS has shirked its obligation to provide work authorization to eligible TPS applicants, many of whom are desperate to provide for themselves and their families. Judge Robart’s decision gets us one step closer to remedying this injustice for all affected individuals,” said NWIRP staff attorney Glenda M. Aldana Madrid.
“We are thrilled the Court granted class certification, and we look forward to continuing this fight for the right of TPS applicants as the case moves forward,” said KKTP partner Edward Ramos. “Congress expressly guaranteed TPS applicants the right to work while they await decisions on their TPS applications, and that right has become especially important as USCIS’s processing times have ballooned. The statutory right to work is clear, and we look forward to vindicating that right on behalf of the certified class in the coming months.”
Trina Realmuto, National Immigration Litigation Alliance
(617) 819-4447, email@example.com
Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
(206) 957-8611; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ira Kurzban, Kurzban Kurzban Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A.
The National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) is an immigrants’ rights nonprofit that strives to protect, enforce, and expand the rights of noncitizens and individuals perceived to be noncitizens by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of immigration attorneys to litigate in federal court. Follow NILA at www.immigrationlitigation.org, on Twitter at @NILA_ImmLit, and on Facebook at NatImmLitAlliance.