Action – Write a comment to stop this mean-spirited rollback of protection for asylum seekers.
A new Trump Administration regulation rollback could leave asylum seekers without work authorization or the ability to attain social services needed to survive. Currently, asylum seekers must wait 150 days after filing their asylum applications to be eligible to apply for work authorization, after which, the USCIS must process their applications for work authorization within 30 days after applying. This regulation that’s been in place since 1994. However, they has regularly failed to adhere to this deadline, often delaying adjudication of applications for months at a time. This delay can cause severe hardship for asylum seekers, many of whom are left in precarious situations with no ability to legally work while their applications are pending. In July 2018, a judge ordered USCIS to comply with the 30-day timeline. The Trump administration’s proposed regulation change would remove the 30-day requirement altogether.
There are already a lot of comments from the other side, most of which can be summed up by one anxious citizen here…
“Secure our boarder’s.”
Yes, your comment matters. We need your help to stop this rule from taking effect!
- Comment here.
- Read their proposal here.
- Read other comments here for inspiration. No “cut and pastes” – identical comments are removed. Channel all your high school creative writing classes!
Delays in asylum seekers getting their work authorization (Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”) approval can lead to:
- Lost income to the asylum seeker and their family
- Food insecurity
- Inability to secure a valid ID. A work permit and a social security number (SSN) are often necessary requirements to applications for a state ID.
- Risk of homelessness/housing insecurity
- Inability to access health insurance (most state ACA health exchanges require a SSN and work authorization materials to qualify)
- Vulnerability to exploitation, trafficking, and underground economy risks
- Lack of access to community service agencies, shelters, and social service programs (many of whom require some form of valid ID, proof of residency, or proof of income)
- Loss of ability to support themselves and their families
- Feelings of fear, desperation, and overall mental health concerns
Sample Arguments (Immigration Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law)
- Harm Caused to Asylum Seekers. Asylum seekers would lose wages and benefits as a result of delayed entry into the U.S. labor force, straining their ability to support themselves and their families. USCIS admits that lost compensation to asylum applicants ranges from $255.88 million to $774.76 million in taxable income per year. The loss of income to asylum-seekers will cause an outsized amount of harm to this already-vulnerable community. A lack of income means not being able to afford food, housing, medical treatment, health insurance, or legal representation. Furthermore, individuals will be unable to secure a valid ID (needed for many social services) and be increasingly vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, and underground economic risks. The lack of ability to work and correlating lack of income also vastly increases the risk that people coming to the United States will become a public charge.
- Lost Tax Revenue for the Government. USCIS admits that all levels of government will lose tax revenue as a result of the proposed rule change. USCIS projects a loss of $39.15 million to $118.54 million per year because delayed work authorization will prevent asylum seekers and their employers from contributing to Medicare and social security.
- Increased Delay Contrary to National Security Interests. In the notice, USCIS makes frequent reference to a rise in national security threats as a reason to spend more time and resources on each decision. However, USCIS has reported that it has been able to decide over 99% of EADs within the 30-day timeframe for over the past year. Therefore, USCIS has proven its ability to adequately vet the amount of requests in a timely fashion. Moreover, its argument regarding increased threats serves only to prompt the need for a speedier process to properly protect national security, rather than its request to delay the process further. This need for a speedier process is further compounded by the fact that the EAD applicants are asylum-seekers already residing in the United States. If vetting must be done to prevent security risks, then having unvetted people in the U.S. subjected to a potentially indefinite review period seems contrary to the department’s stated interests.
- Part of a Systematic Effort to Deter Asylum Seekers. This proposed rule change is part and parcel of this administration’s effort to make the U.S. a hostile destination for individuals fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. This is evidenced by this rule change as well as the third-country transit bar, the proposed wide-sweeping public charge rule, and the institution of the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols. By removing the ability of asylum seekers to gain meaningful employment within a short and predictable timeframe, the Trump Administration effectively turns asylum seekers into the very public charges it seeks to exclude. Additionally, this policy change would make the work authorization process more unpredictable and inefficient by removing the ability to hold USCIS accountable to any deadline.
- Proposed Alternative: As the law is currently written, asylum seekers must wait 180 days before they may be granted authorization to work. They are permitted to submit their application after 150 days, giving USCIS the 30-day timeframe in question to process the requests. If USCIS’s goal is to have more time to process each request in order to increase flexibility and free up resources to work on other applications, then it could easily shorten the waiting time before asylum-seekers are allowed to submit their application. If USCIS feels that a 60-day timeframe would be more beneficial, then it may allow applications to be submitted after 120 days, rather than 150. Allowing asylum-seekers to submit their applications earlier could allow the department to have up to 180 days to process and properly vet each individual while reducing the risk of harm to each applicant.