A group of 68 Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration to speed up the process for extending work permits for thousands of immigrants before their current permits expire later this month.

Businesses and immigrant workers are facing uncertainty as government-issued permits are set to expire starting April 24 for those who applied to renew last fall, according to lawmakers in a letter released Monday.

The backlog of renewal applications has grown to over 279,000 as of September 2023, causing processing times of up to 16 months.

Spearheaded by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the lawmakers stress the need for action to prevent disruptions to the workforce. They’re calling for an extension of the automatic renewal period for work permits, known as Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), from 180 days to at least 540 days to accommodate delays.

Without a new rule in place, immigrants and asylum seekers could lose their ability to work, leading to serious consequences for families and local economies, the lawmakers warn. Delays in processing often result in job loss, financial strain, and even the risk of deportation for unauthorized work.

The lawmakers emphasize the urgency of finalizing the rule quickly to assist both workers and employers. They urge the administration to enact the rule without delay and consider making it permanent or extending it for at least three years.

The proposed rule is currently under review by the White House, with a 90-day review period. However, the lawmakers are pushing for expedited action to prevent extensive job losses and economic disruption.

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) welcomes the support from Congress, highlighting the importance of work permits for asylum seekers’ ability to maintain employment, access licenses, and remain insured.

A total of eight Senate Democrats and 60 House Democrats have signed the letter, joining Warren and Gillibrand in their call for action.