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A.B.T. et al. v. USCIS, et al., also known as B.H. et al. v. USCIS, et al., A Nationwide Class Action to Fix the “Asylum Clock” Amended Settlement

Date: 
09/20/2013
Author: 
Iris Gomez, MLRI; Gibbs, Houston & Pauw

Federal Judge Preliminarily Approves Amended Settlement Agreement in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers (September 20, 2013)

For Immediate Release
September 20, 2013
Boston, MA

On September 20, 2013, a federal district court held a fairness hearing and preliminarily approved a settlement agreement in a nationwide class action lawsuit that challenged the denial of work authorization to asylum seekers who have been waiting six months or more for a decision on their asylum applications. The lawsuit is called B.H. et al v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al (also referred to as “ABT”).  This lawsuit was filed by the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC), the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), and the law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw. 

The Court concluded at the September 20 hearing that it would provide a 30 day window for class members to review the additional class notice and revised settlement agreement. The Court stated that it intended to issue an order approving the settlement on November 4, 2013 if it does not receive any objections in the 30 day period.

The Notice to class members about the settlement and other documents are available for downloading below:

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Agreement Reached in National Class Action Lawsuit on Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers
 
For Immediate Release
April 15, 2013
Boston, MA
 
Contact: Iris Gomez, MASSACHUSETTS LAW REFORM INSTITUTE (617) 357-0700, ext. 331
 
Boston, MA – The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have agreed to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit challenging the denial of work authorization to asylum seekers who have been waiting six months or more for a decision on their asylum applications. If approved by a federal judge, this agreement 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 settlement agreement represents the culmination of years of advocacy by the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center (LAC) and other groups on behalf of deserving asylum seekers.

The agreement stems from a case filed in December 2011 by the LAC and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), with co-counsel from the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw.  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.

The case, filed on behalf of asylum-seekers around the country, alleged that the current system unlawfully denies asylum applicants the opportunity to obtain employment authorization if their asylum application has been pending for six months or more. Some end up waiting several months or years for the government to make a decision on their asylum application.  Indeed, one plaintiff from China has been waiting nearly 10 years for his case to be resolved. Employment authorization is critical given that most applicants have fled their home countries without any resources, and thus have no means to support themselves. 

READ ENTIRE PRESS RELEASE HERE

READ TERMS OF SETTLEMENT HERE

Settlement FAQ - Updated February 5, 2014

The Court's Order

Notice to Class Members

Settlement Agreement

Claim Form

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