A proposed class action claims roughly 75,000 foreign citizens with approval to work in the U.S. risk being unable to obtain or maintain employment due to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) failure to print their work permit cards.
Filed against USCIS and two officials, the 20-page lawsuit out of Ohio alleges the immigration agency has significantly slowed or stopped providing workers’ Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) due to a “deliberate and intentional decision” to terminate its printing contract with a third party “without having any intention or plan to replace that printing contract” or otherwise produce the documents.
While USCIS has historically printed EADs within 48 hours of approving a foreign worker’s employment authorization application, workers now face months-long delays after receiving approval to work in the U.S. before they are legally able to do so, the suit explains. According to the case, USCIS’s approval is legally insufficient to confer permission to work given foreign workers must provide evidence to employers by presenting a valid and unexpired EAD.
“Defendants’ actions and failures to act have intentionally, deliberately and/or willfully inflicted irreparable harm on Plaintiff and class members, who are unable to work despite having been granted employment authorization, solely because of the lack of an EAD,” the complaint states.
The plaintiff, a resident and citizen of India, says she was admitted to the U.S. as an H-1B nonimmigrant to work at Nationwide Insurance and was granted a change to H-4 status as a dependent of her husband, who works for American Electric Power pursuant to a H-1B petition that will be valid until June 7, 2023. Although the plaintiff’s applications for an H-4 status extension and employment authorization were approved by USCIS on April 7, 2020, she has not received a physical employment authorization card, the lawsuit states.
“Generally, the EAD is produced and sent to the applicant within 48 hours of the approval,” the complaint notes. “It has been over 105 days since USCIS approved Plaintiff’s application and Defendant still has not printed and sent the EAD to Plaintiff.”
Though the plaintiff, through counsel, made several attempts to address the issue with USCIS and even engaged the assistance of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), she was repeatedly told that the agency “is unable to expedite the production of EAD cards,” per the complaint.
According to the suit, the plaintiff was forced to stop working for her employer on June 7, 2020 due to the expiration of her previous EAD and was informed she would be terminated if she could not provide proof of employment authorization by August 9.
Alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution, the case seeks a temporary restraining order, writ of mandamus, and injunctive and declaratory relief compelling the defendants to issue EADs to the plaintiff and proposed class members “immediately” and no later than seven days after the court’s order.
The plaintiff’s counsel said in a statement to Law360 that the lawsuit was “born out of extreme frustration,” noting that he only made the decision to file the case as a proposed class action after reading a Washington Postarticle detailing the printing delays.
“We’ve made every effort that we could, but USCIS is not a user-friendly agency anymore,” the plaintiff’s counsel said. “We had just reached the end of what we could do short of filing a lawsuit.”
USCIS, which was hit with another lawsuit last month over alleged delays in providing naturalization ceremonies for those who are one step away from becoming U.S. citizens, is itself seeking a $1.2 billion bailout amid financial woes caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
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