Rep. Bass, CHC Send Letter to DHS to Automatically Extend Work Permits for Immigrants During COVID-19 Crisis
Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.
April 13, 2020
The Honorable Chad F. Wolf Acting Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security 245 Murray Lane, SW Washington, DC 2052
The Honorable Kenneth T. Cuccinelli Senior Official Performing Duties of the Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 20 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington, DC 20001
Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Senior Official Cuccinelli:
We write to respectfully request that, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) automatically extend, for the same duration as the previous grant, employment authorization for all immigrants (including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders) whose employment authorization documents (EADs) expire within one year of the date of this letter or 90 days after rescission of the March 13, 2020, presidential proclamation, Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. Responding to COVID-19 requires a nationwide response, and the widespread job losses and vital federal, state, and local measures enacted to combat COVID-19 erected significant barriers for current EAD holders, especially DACA recipients, seeking to renew. Support of DACA recipients during the current pandemic is particularly critical as over 200,000 DACA recipients are in occupations and industry groups that render them "essential critical infrastructure workers" according to DHS guidance.1
On March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) partially or entirely closed its offices and instituted telework for numerous procedures for many adjudicators.2 We commend USCIS for its recent policy announcement that it would reuse existing biometrics and continue to adjudicate EAD applications. However, USCIS’ closure of offices, increase in telework for adjudicators, and other COVID-19 related delays will undoubtedly worsen already existing adjudication backlogs, increasing the likelihood that applicants, including DACA recipients, will face work permit expiration before approval.
At least 270 million people in 33 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are under “stay at home” orders, meaning that immigrants cannot leave their homes to collect supporting documents, print and prepare, and mail their applications.3 Immigrants, including DACA recipients, also face significant obstacles in preparing their renewal requests, particularly in light of the closure of the non-profit legal organizations and law firms. Immigrants or those with family members impacted by COVID-19 may also not have an opportunity to apply for renewal because of the need to prioritize health care and recovery; or the ability to physically prepare a request due to health ill health. Finally, the worsening economic situation driven by COVID-19, including the loss of jobs and decrease in investments and savings due to stock market volatility, means that immigrants may not have income or savings to pay the filing fee for Form I765, Application for Employment Authorization.
We again commend USCIS for reusing previously submitted biometrics in adjudicating applications for work authorization.4 Nevertheless, automatic extensions are still needed because of the barriers identified above, including COVID-19-related exacerbation of adjudication backlogs and delays; financial difficulties to pay filing fees; closure of legal service providers; shelter in place orders; and more. Continued employment authorization will ensure that breadwinners can support their families during this pandemic, afford critically needed medical care, and support our nation in its economic recovery. Extending work authorization to immigrants, including DACA recipients and TPS holders, not only benefits immigrant youth, but our communities, and the nation’s continued economic recovery.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We request a response within 15 days and you may contact Congressional Hispanic Caucus Executive Director Alma Acosta at firstname.lastname@example.org