White House EAD Sprint Gives Needy Immigrants a Chance to Earn Dignity


Having called New York home for a decade, the last few months have felt strange. I felt my city grow and expand with the influx of newly arrived residents. After the strange void felt during Covid, New Yorkers have bounced back strong, relishing in-person interactions. The city seems alive and open for business again. New Yorkers largely welcomed those in need, as individuals were bused in from the border. After all, we have a lamp and a golden door. But what happens when space runs out? The grumbling began when utilities began to be diverted, shelters were erected in local parks and community sports fields were converted. Political rhetoric and media amplification have made it too easy to blame these poor and tired masses.

So, when the White House wanted to help this city, AILA jumped at the opportunity! My fellow AILA NY members, nonprofits, NGOs, and community members have come together to collaborate with various levels of government to create and operate a clinic to expedite the treatment of applications for work permits (known to lawyers as Employment Authorization Documents or EADs). for those in New York shelters. It was a surreal 10 days of preparation, with the official plan being to “build the plane while we fly it” before taking part in the first EAD bid on Monday September 25, 2023.

Volunteer with the USCIS DirectorThe pilot clinic lasted two weeks. It was a whirlwind of activity: we prepared, reviewed, submitted and processed applications and completed biometrics for more than 1,700 people living in urban shelters. It was a team effort. The city and state provided office space for the clinic and scheduled appointments for people in shelters. Even though some candidates were not immediately eligible, we were able to advise hundreds of people every day. With the assistance of interpreters, preparers and supervisors completed paper versions of the I-765 work authorization application. In addition to the documentation, we have prepared a fee waiver request primarily based on those temporarily living in shelters. Then, our immigration lawyer supervisors would conduct a final review of the application materials to ensure that all details were correct and necessary evidence was included. USCIS officers on site would then be able to review and process applications in government systems.

It was incredibly efficient to work directly alongside USCIS officers, as we were able to locate missing I-94s, link previous applications, and reuse biometric data from those that had already been processed. As a result, the speed of processing was remarkable: about 2-3 weeks instead of 5+ months, and just knowing that we had all worked together to ensure that the EAD application itself would be approved created a great atmosphere. positive felt by everyone. at the clinic !

A personal highlight was helping three families with young children, two of whom were expecting mothers who were soon approaching their due date! It was inspiring to use my skills to help those who have experienced such difficulties, knowing that by processing their application, they would have one less thing to worry about as their family grew.

Being an immigration lawyer is not for everyone. Often you can’t help but experience vicarious trauma from your clients. You experience the reality of their fear, their frustration, and their willingness to risk everything they have known in hopes of a chance at the American dream. Clinics like this, where all levels of government have come together to prioritize and streamline the immigration process, give me hope for the future. Until we can enact positive and effective immigration legislation to meet the needs of the nation, we will continue working to help every family, one smile at a time.


More information on efforts to increase access to work permits for asylum seekers is available at AILA Featured Issue Page on Border Processing and Asylum. AILA advocates to address the backlog, delays and inefficiencies of asylum seeker work permits throughout the Employment Authorization (EAD) process. AILA is also a leading partner in the Let asylum seekers work campaign.

Anyone interested in this issue can also use the following link to contact Congress on this matter: ACT: URGE CONGRESS TO CO-SPONSOR THE ASYLUM SEEKERS WORK AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2023

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