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On April 12, 2013, the plaintiffs in the asylum clock class action lawsuit (A.B.T. et al v. USCIS, et al.), represented by the American Immigration Council, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw, filed a proposed settlement agreement with the court.  More information about the lawsuit and settlement can be found here.  If approved, the settlement will significantly affect the ability of an asylum seeker to obtain employment authorization during the pendency of her asylum claim.  Some of the key changes include:

  • Starting the asylum clock at the time an application is filed with the court clerk, rather than waiting until the application is accepted by the immigration judge at the next master calendar hearing.
     
  • Requiring an immigration judge to allow a non-detained applicant at least 45 days before an expedited merits hearing date.  At present, at least one Chicago immigration judge regularly schedules all expedited merits hearings for two weeks after the master calendar hearing, making it very difficult for many asylum applicants to accept an expedited date and thereby keep their asylum clock running.
     
  • Providing clear notice of the asylum clock during removal proceedings.  An immigration judge will provide written notice to applicants and their attorneys about the clock and the impact of the adjournment reason and code on employment authorization.

More information about the asylum clock and employment authorization for asylum applicants can be found here.  Attorneys who represent NIJC asylum clients and have questions about the asylum clock or the proposed settlement should contact Michelle Bezner at mbezner@heartlandalliance.org.