April 01, 2024

Senators Warren, Gillibrand, Representatives Espaillat, Bowman, Garcia Lead Letter to the Biden Administration Urging Immediate Work Permit Extension for Immigrants

“[T]he current situation demands further action to prevent extensive job losses and economic disruption. Once again, we strongly urge DHS to act swiftly to issue an interim final rule that lengthens the automatic work authorization extension... Doing so will protect immigrant workers, strengthen the economy, and benefit local host communities around the country.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.), led a bicameral letter to President Biden, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou, urging them to lengthen the automatic extension period for work permits, or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), from 180 days to at least 540 days to account for significant delays in processing EAD renewal applications.  

In May 2022, when USCIS experienced a similar problem with processing delays for EAD renewal applications, the administration temporarily extended the grace period for EADs from 180 days to 540 days. That rule is set to expire on April 24, 2024, even though USCIS still had a backlog of over 279,000 renewal applications as of September 2023. If the administration does not finalize a new rule to extend this period, immigrants and asylum seekers could begin to lose their permission to work on April 24, 2024, which could lead to serious consequences for families and local economies.

“Many lose their jobs, income, and access to driver’s licenses because of bureaucratic delays outside of their control. This severely limits their ability to pay rent, buy food, and support themselves and their families,” wrote the lawmakers. “If they continue to work without authorization, they can also become removable from the United States, and their employers can be subject to civil penalties.”

In addition to the impact on workers, the lawmakers stress that the rule must be finalized as quickly as possible to assist employers and local economies, as well.

“Employers in our states cannot afford to wait until mid-April to know whether their employees will be able to continue working legally,” the lawmakers write. “These employers need to be able to plan and operate knowing that their workforce will not be disrupted by abrupt changes in work authorization status. We therefore urge the administration to issue this rule promptly.” 

The lawmakers are pushing for the new rule, already under review by the White House, to be enacted as an interim final rule without a sunset date, or alternatively, as a temporary final rule that leaves the benefit in place for at least three years. While the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has 90 days from March 1st to review the proposed rule, the lawmakers are pushing for the rule to be finalized as soon as possible.

“We appreciate the steps your administration has already taken to address the work authorization challenges faced by immigrant communities and to improve EAD processing delays over the past calendar year,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, the current situation demands further action to prevent extensive job losses and economic disruption.”

“ASAP is grateful that members of Congress have now joined asylum seekers in asking the government to prioritize extending work permits,” said Leidy Perez, policy and communications director at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), a membership organization of over 600,000 asylum seekers. “Work permits allow our members to obtain and remain in the workforce, access professional and driver’s licenses, and keep health insurance. It is now more important than ever for the Biden administration to listen to asylum seekers and members of Congress and prioritize extending work permits.” 

The letter is also signed by: Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jacklyn Rosen (D-Nev.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Representatives Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.),Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), David Trone (D-Md.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Nydia Velázquez (D- N.Y.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D- N.J.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

Senator Warren has led ongoing efforts to protect the rights of asylum seekers and other migrants, and to hold the United States accountable to its humanitarian obligations: 

  • In November 2023, Senator Warren led a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommending steps to expand access to employment authorization documents (EADs) for eligible noncitizens, and laying out several policy proposals to help address issues with EADs. 

  • In September 2023, Senators Warren and Markey applauded the Biden administration’s redesignation of TPS for Venezuelan migrants.

  • In August 2023, Senators Warren and Markey and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Bill Keating (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas and Director Jaddou, urging them to expedite the processing of EADs for individuals paroled into the United States, which would lessen the strain on available humanitarian and housing resources. 

  • In March 2023, Senators Warren, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and 9 other senators submitted a public comment against the Biden administration’s proposed rule to restrict asylum at the southern border. The senators called on the Biden administration to withdraw the rule in its entirety.

  • In January 2023, Senator Warren and nearly 70 other lawmakers sent a letter urging President Biden to reverse his Administration’s expansion of the inhumane Trump-era border policy known as Title 42 and to abandon the proposed asylum “transit ban” rule. The lawmakers also encouraged the President and his Administration to work with Congress to develop safe, humane, and orderly border policies that enforce our immigration laws and uphold the right to asylum under domestic and international law.

  • In September 2022, Senator Warren led members of the Massachusetts delegation in a letter to DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency calling for funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to be allocated swiftly to organizations assisting newly arrived migrants in Massachusetts. 

  • In September 2022, Senator Warren released a statement condemning efforts to use asylum seekers as political pawns and committing to assisting communities in need. 

  • In November 2021, Senator Warren stated her opposition to the continued use of Title 42 to expel asylum seekers and called for the Biden administration to rescind this policy.

  • In October 2021, Senator Warren joined Senator Menendez in criticizing the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants and called on the Administration to support long-term stability in Haiti.  

  • In October 2021, Senator Warren called on Chris Magnus to commit to transparency regarding the investigation into the events in Del Rio, Texas during his confirmation hearing to be CBP Commissioner.