- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A new lawsuit alleges federal immigration officials routinely delay issuing employment authorization documents to eligible immigrants and fail to issue interim documents, thwarting their ability to work legally.

According to the suit, immigrants who are renewing their work authorization are also at risk: They can lose their jobs, benefits and, in some states, their driver’s licenses. As a result, immigrants can’t support themselves and their families while their immigration applications are pending.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It seeks class action status.

Work permits are typically issued to people eligible for asylum, green cards and other types of visas and immigration statuses.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is required to decide most employment authorization applications within 90 days. Initial applications based on pending asylum claims must be reviewed within 30 days.

In case of delays, the USCIS is required to issue an interim work authorization document, valid for up to 240 days.

But the lawsuit says the agency has stopped issuing interim documents despite routine delays.

Marvella Arcos-Perez from Washington state, an asylum applicant and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, has waited for her work authorization renewal since early January. According to the suit, Arcos-Perez is a widow who supports a daughter with disabilities through a job at a mattress company, but could lose the job without authorization to work.

Another plaintiff, Carmen Osorio-Ballesteros from Illinois, has waited for her work authorization since December. Osorio-Ballesteros was previously approved for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives young people brought into the U.S. illegally as children temporary legal status and a two-year work permit. According to the suit, she applied as required to renew that status, but the work permit has yet to arrive.

A mother of three U.S. citizen children, Osorio-Ballesteros lost her full-time job when her work authorization expired in April.

The USCIS declined to comment because the issue is under active litigation.

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