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
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:
- Notice to Class Members
- Claim Form
- Additional Class Notice
- Order Preliminarily Approving Settlement
- Revised Settlement Agreement (clean)
- Revised Settlement Agreement (redlined)
- Stipulated Motion for Attorneys' Fees
- Exhibit A to Motion for Attorneys' Fees
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.
Settlement FAQ - Updated February 5, 2014