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Asylum seeker lawsuit challenges USCIS work authorization delays

A new lawsuit alleges a group of asylum seekers have been unlawfully denied access to work authorization due to paperwork delays at Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The class action suit includes five asylum seekers whose jobs are either in jeopardy or already lost because Citizenship Services has yet to renew their work permits. Emma Winger with the American Immigration Council is one of the lawyers representing the case. 

“These are folks who have very often suffered from trauma, they are fleeing persecution, so the harm that results from taking jobs away from this population is really significant,” she said. 

Winger says asylum seekers already have to wait 180 days before they are able to apply for work authorization. 

Those granted that authorization have it for two years and then have to reapply, a process that should take no more than 180 days to complete. But Winger says some of the clients on this lawsuit have waited, and not worked, for almost a year.

Winger’s case filed for a preliminary injunction to allow the asylum seekers’ work authorization renewal applications to progress while the trial moves through the court.

A USCIS spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.