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Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Immigration Agency’s Denial of the Right to Work to Temporary Protected Status Applicants

For Immediate Release
March 9, 2023


Media Contacts

Matt Adams, NWIRP - (206) 957-8611,

Trina Realmuto, National Immigration Litigation Alliance - (617) 819-4447,

Ira Kurzban, Kurzban Kurzban Tetzeli & Pratt - (305) 444-0060


SEATTLE, WA – Today, four applicants who qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), filed a national class action against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in federal district court in Seattle, Washington. The lawsuit challenges the agency’s denial of the right to work to TPS applicants while their applications are pending before the agency. Federal law requires that eligible TPS applicants be provided employment authorization documentation so they can obtain work to support themselves and their families while they wait for the agency to complete the lengthy adjudication process, which can take several months and, in some cases, even years. The lawsuit alleges that despite the statutory guarantee of such interim work authorization, USCIS waits to provide employment authorization documentation until after the TPS applications are approved.


The four plaintiffs, who are from Afghanistan, Haiti, and Somalia, seek to represent a nationwide class of TPS applicants. TPS is a form of humanitarian relief that provides temporary lawful immigration status to foreign nationals from war-ravaged or disaster-stricken countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security recently designated nationals of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen as eligible to apply for TPS protections. These designations are an acknowledgement that it is not safe for individuals from these nations currently in the U.S. to be return.


Congress sought to ensure that eligible TPS applicants are immediately provided employment authorization documentation while their applications are pending, yet USCIS ignores Congress’ mandate and refuses to provide this documentation. This creates significant hardship as USCIS publishes processing times which demonstrate that most applicants for TPS wait for close to a year, and sometimes much longer, before their applications are approved. The lawsuit seeks to alleviate the harm these families suffer, requesting the Court to declare that federal law requires USCIS to provide interim employment authorization documentation immediately upon receipt of a qualifying TPS application.


Plaintiffs are represented by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), and the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli & Pratt.


“The agency violates the law when it forces TPS applicants to suffer for prolonged periods without employment authorization documents,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for NWIRP.


“TPS applicants who are unable to work cannot pay rent, buy food, or otherwise support their families. Not having work authorization during the TPS application process defeats the humanitarian purpose of the law,” said Mary Kenney, Deputy Director for NILA.


“For more than three decades, federal law has guaranteed TPS applicants the right to work while they wait for the government to process their applications. The government is ignoring that guarantee, and this lawsuit seeks to vindicate that right on behalf of TPS applicants,” said Ira Kurzban of Kurzban Kurzban Tetzeli & Pratt.


A link to the complaint can be found here.