The Trump administration has used the economic meltdown and health crisis caused by the coronavirus as a pretext for implementing over a dozen highly restrictive immigration rules. On June 26, 2020 the administration issued its latest immigration salvo, this time targeting the ability of asylum seekers to work lawfully in the United States. This rule, which becomes effective August 25, 2020, is allegedly part of the administration’s ongoing effort to deter people from entering the country illegally and filing “frivolous” claims. In fact, the Trump administration is targeting the most vulnerable members of society to shore up support from its base, and cover up for its failures, in an election year.
Although the administration’s latest rule does not change asylum eligibility criteria, it does make several changes making it more difficult for asylum applicants to obtain work permits in the United States. Some of these changes include:
- extending the time that asylum seekers must wait until applying for employment authorization from 150 days to 365 days;
- denying work permits to asylum seekers who fail to file for protections within one year of arriving in the United States;
- removing the 30-day window that USCIS has to process documents authorizing work for asylum seekers;
- precluding asylum seekers who crossed the border, other than at a point of entry, from obtaining a work permit in the majority of cases;
- barring asylum seekers from seeking work permits if they relocate to a new address that would transfer the application to a different asylum office or immigration court.
These changes could potentially leave asylum-seekers without legal authorization to work for many years. Prior to the issuance of these rules, immigrants seeking asylum were able to obtain work permits through an expedited process, allowing them to secure immediate refuge from unsafe living conditions. This enabled asylum seekers to support themselves financially while they waited, sometimes for years, for U.S. immigration to process their cases.
Trump’s latest rule will undoubtedly have significant negative consequences for asylum seekers who rely on the quick issuance of work permits as a means of survival. The delay in granting work permits will force tens of thousands of people to rely on charity or do work under the table, making them more vulnerable to exploitation. The new rule jeopardizes the health, safety, and lives of asylum seekers and their families. It prevents these individuals from securing basic necessities of housing and food. The administration has told asylum seekers to essentially get used to homelessness in order to survive in the United States without proper work authorization.
This new rule severely curtails the ability of asylum seekers to survive in the United States. It abandons a population of immigrants who are in the greatest need of assistance to exploitation and poverty. If you or anyone you know is planning to seek asylum in the United States, or have questions about your ability to work in the United States if you have filed for asylum, reach out to our office and we will do our best to help you.