Attorney General James Leads Multistate Coalition Calling for Expanded Access to Work Authorization for New Immigrants

AG James and Coalition of 19 Attorneys General Urge DHS to Expedite Process to Support Asylum-Seekers and Migrants

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multistate coalition of 19 attorneys general calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expedite and expand access to work authorization for newly arrived immigrants, especially asylum-seekers and migrants. In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the coalition commends the Department’s efforts in September to remove barriers to securing work authorization, and requests additional action to protect new immigrants and make it easier for them to support their families by securing stable jobs. 

“New immigrants, so many of whom fled horrific circumstances in pursuit of a better life in America, deserve an opportunity to find good-paying, stable jobs,” said Attorney General James. “It is unconscionable that after all the suffering they’ve endured on their journey, they encounter bureaucratic roadblocks preventing them from pursuing the American dream. Asylum-seekers and migrants are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and I thank my fellow attorneys general for joining this effort to ensure they are treated with dignity.” 

While many new immigrants, including those seeking asylum status, are eager to find employment to provide for themselves and their families, without work authorization they have been forced to rely on state and local safety net programs for food and shelter. As the coalition of attorneys general notes, the arduous process of obtaining work authorization leaves many immigrant families without stable housing and forces some to seek work in the underground economy, where they are targets for exploitation.  

Current work authorization applications often require expensive fees or complex fee waiver requirements, preventing a large portion of immigrants from even applying for the permit. Backlogs in the approval of work authorization permits have led to months-long wait times for approval. Migrants from regions such as Haiti have been disproportionately impacted, with their humanitarian parole status expiring before their work authorization is granted. Such structural barriers prevent these vulnerable populations from becoming self-sufficient and building stable lives in America.  

The coalition fully supports DHS’ previous measures to improve access to work authorization which included speeding up application processing and increasing the amount of time that work authorization permits are valid for. However, the coalition’s letter notes that additional measures are needed to eliminate the barriers new immigrants face in finding stable jobs to support themselves. The coalition recommends DHS take four additional steps to expedite access to work authorization:  

  • Grant provisional work authorization to allow eligible parolees and asylum-seekers to work while their full application for work authorization is pending. 
  • Eliminate application fees for those granted humanitarian parole and allow applications with a fee waiver to be submitted online. 
  • Re-parole those awaiting work authorization to prevent the expiration of their parole status while attempting to obtain employment. 
  • Streamline the application processes to make it easier for immigrants to apply for work authorization and for DHS to process applications. For example, the coalition recommends simplifying and translating the work authorization application form into multiple languages to make it more accessible for applicants.  

Joining Attorney General James in signing on to this letter are the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

This action is the latest example of Attorney General James fighting for immigrant communities. In August, Attorney General James stopped a fraudulent immigrant assistance provider that was misleading and intimidating immigrants in Westchester County and New York City. Also in August, Attorney General James joined a coalition of attorneys general calling on DHS to expedite work authorization for immigrants. In March, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general to push back against the ongoing effort by Texas to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In November 2022, Attorney General James sued a fraudulent Brooklyn property owner for cheating at least 20 immigrant families. In 2021, Attorney General James led a coalition of 16 states to stop deportations of undocumented immigrants and sued a bail bonds company that used deceptive and abusive tactics to prey on immigrants held in federal detention. In 2020, Attorney General James led a coalition of states successfully arguing before the Supreme Court in favor of keeping DACA in place.