Restrictions on Asylum Seeker Work Permits

September 14, 2020

News outlets across the country are reporting that the Trump administration has employed a new rule that applies to asylum seekers who apply for work permits. The previous deadline of waiting 150 days after filing an asylum petition has been extended to 365 days. The rule also prohibits those who crossed the border illegally from obtaining work permits. These changes, most of which went into effect on August 21, will delay and restrict asylum seekers from legally working in the United States. Some feel that this regulation is part of an effort to gradually decrease asylum protections for vulnerable populations, such as domestic violence survivors, the LGBTQ community, and those victimized by abuse, crimes, and human-rights violations in their native countries.

The New Rule

There are four other major changes in the new rule. Before August 21, the government was required to process work permit applications within 30 days. This deadline is no longer effect, although this stipulation does not apply to renewals. Going forward, application processing times could be much longer and impact the likelihood of an asylum application being approved. All asylum work permits initiated by applicants convicted of certain crimes will also be denied, and applicants who are believed to have committed serious, non-political crimes outside of the U.S. will also be turned down.

As of August 25, any person filing a new asylum application one year after entering the U.S. will not be eligible for a work permit unless the government finds that they meet an extraordinary exception. Previously, asylum seekers could qualify for work permits regardless of when they submitted their asylum applications. Work permits can now be denied to asylum seekers if the government states that there may be unresolved applicant-caused delays. This category includes requests to supplement or amend applications, or if a change in an applicant’s address causes their application to be transferred to another asylum office.

Asylum seekers will also be charged money to apply for asylum and work permit application fees will increase by 34 percent. These new fees both go into effect on October 2. On and after August 21, asylum seekers who have their work permits denied will find that their work permits are automatically ended unless the case is referred to immigration court. Before, asylum seekers were able to continue working until their permits expired or up to 60 days after it was denied, whichever was longer.

The Administration’s Defense

The Trump administration claims that the older work permit polices led to unauthorized border crossings. They felt that the older policies allowed migrants to take advantage of U.S. humanitarian protection, helping them to remain working while their cases were stuck in backlogged immigration courts.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged that these new work permit rules could make problems even worse, stating that these people could become more vulnerable to work exploitation, hunger, and homelessness. The DHS also posted a statement in the Federal Register indicating that that asylum seekers could look for shelters and directed them to become more familiar with state homelessness resources.

Asylum Seekers Speak Out

CBS News shared the story of a Guatemalan single mother with two children who came to the U.S. seeking asylum. A survivor of sexual violence, she did not possess a legal work permit, and cannot apply for one for seven more months. She lives in Ohio and said that most migrants do not seek asylum to get better jobs. Although she was offered jobs where she could work under the table, she did not want to do it the wrong way. Her family has received help from charitable groups that have contributed to her children’s medical expenses. Another asylum seeker fled political persecution in Cuba after his own father threatened to kill him. The seeker and his two young children were hiding in Miami. While trying to apply for a work permit, the family was relying on their extended families and ethnic communities to help them.

Protesting the New Rules

Advocates agree with the DHS about the new rules being detrimental to low-income asylum-seekers. A representative for the Children’s Law Program at Americans for Immigrant Justice claims that the rules were created to prevent asylum seekers from surviving. She explained that many asylum seekers are traumatized and come to the U.S. with nothing. They rely on work permits to feed themselves and their families while waiting for courts decisions. An executive director of Catholic Legal Services stated that the new rules are a form of harassment that attacks the asylum directly, adding that they also double the amount of time that people go without working.

Though many believe that asylum seekers can receive government aid, this is not the case. A director of Florida International University’s Immigration and Human Rights Clinic stated that the new rules have come at a very difficult time, especially amidst a global pandemic. He detailed how processing asylum cases can take many years, and the work permit restrictions give asylum seekers few options for long term housing.

Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at the MC Law Group, LLC Help Asylum Seekers Build New Lives

Seeking safe asylum in a new country is a complicated process, and when new rules are brought into the picture, it makes it even harder. You can put your trust in the caring, experienced Philadelphia immigration attorneys at the MC Law Group, LLC to help you and your family during this difficult time. We are ready to dedicate our efforts to making you and your family safe. For a free consultation, call us a 215-496-0690 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, we help clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.