AG James Opposes Trump Admin's Move To Increase Time Before Asylum Seekers Can Apply To Work In United States

AG James Opposes Trump Admin’s Move to Increase Time
Before Asylum Seekers Can Apply to Work in United States

Coalition of AGs Argue Proposed DHS Rule Would Violate Federal Law,
Prolong Unemployment for Asylum Seekers, Harm State Economies

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 20 additional attorneys general from around the nation, today took steps to oppose an unlawful attempt by the Trump Administration to obstruct asylum seekers from applying for work permits. In a comment letter filed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the coalition of attorneys general argue that the proposed rule introduces delays, confusion, and unnecessary administrative burdens into the work permit and asylum application processes. Among other changes, this rule would require asylum seekers — many of whom flee their countries with few resources — to wait 365 days from the date their asylum application is received before they can apply for a work permit.

“The Trump Administration continues to make every attempt to deny immigrants the ability to build a life for themselves here in America,” said Attorney General James. “Despite the president's efforts to make it harder for immigrants to obtain work permits, every individual has the right to work towards the American Dream, so this continuous barrage of attacks on our immigrant communities will not stand. Our coalition will fight this discriminatory and prejudiced attempt to push legal immigrants into the shadows.”

Under current law, asylum seekers already face a significant period of unemployment before they can apply to legally work in the United States. Asylum seekers can apply for a work permit — also known as an Employment Authorization Document — if their complete asylum application was received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has been pending for 150 days. Once asylum seekers file their application for a work permit, USCIS must act on it within 30 days. The proposed rule seeks to more than double the time period an asylum seeker must wait before applying for a work permit by increasing it to 365 days. The proposed rule also introduces other changes to the work permit and asylum application processes which make them more burdensome and unfair.

The proposed DHS rule is the latest in a series of unlawful attempts by the Trump Administration to change federal immigration policy in ways that harm asylum seekers. The comment letter urges DHS to withdraw this proposed rule because it would dramatically delay the ability of asylum seekers to legally earn wages and become self-sufficient, harm state economies, and violate federal law:

  • Delaying or denying work authorization harms asylum seekers and their families: By more than doubling the waiting period required to submit work permit applications, the proposed rule dangerously restricts an asylum seeker’s ability to legally earn wages and be self-sufficient. This can push asylum seekers into the underground economy in order to make ends meet, impede their ability to take care of themselves and their families, and harm their health and wellbeing. The proposed rule also completely bars certain groups of asylum seekers from applying for work permits, including those who enter the United States outside a port of entry.
  • Having fewer gainfully employed asylum seekers harms state economies: States across the country welcome thousands of immigrants each year who contribute greatly to their communities and economies. The proposed rule would lower tax and spending revenues for the states and harm local businesses that will have to find alternative labor. Additionally, because many asylum seekers will be without employer-provided healthcare or able to purchase healthcare on their own, there will be an increased reliance on state-funded healthcare programs.
  • Implementing the rule violates federal law: The coalition argues the rule would violate the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. Among other violations of the APA, several aspects of the proposed rule are contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act. DHS also did not conduct the required fiscal impact analysis or consider less burdensome alternatives.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s comment letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.