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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

New Administration Rules on Asylum Seeker Work Eligibility is the Latest Attack on the Most Vulnerable

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LIRS Staff

June 24, 2020

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – On June 26, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is poised to publish a final rule in the Federal Register that will make it more difficult for asylum seekers to apply for and obtain employment authorization in the United States. The rule will take effect 60 days from its publication date.

“These policy changes will be devastating to asylum seekers in this country,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). “Denying work permits, in effect, denies them the legal right to provide the most basic necessities for themselves and their loved ones while they await what little due process is afforded to them.”

Under the new final rule, DHS would be able to deny employment authorization to asylum seekers who did not cross the border at an authorized port of entry—making thousands of those who have fled violence and persecution at the southern border ineligible to work while their cases are adjudicated in a typically years-long process. The policy would also extend the waiting period to apply for employment authorization to 365 days from the date of application filing, leaving asylum seekers who crossed at ports of entry unable to work for a full year.

“We expect immigrants to pull themselves up by the boot straps, but this rule effectively denies them the right to boots for a full year,” said Vignarajah. “This denial forces them into the shadows to seek work to support themselves. Not only would the proposed changes be destructive to vulnerable families, they are likely to result in a loss of millions of local, state, and federal tax dollars.”

Other provisions of the policy include a two-year limit on all employment authorizations; a separate final rule published in the Federal Register on Monday, June 22, 2020 removes a requirement that ensures U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grant or deny initial employment authorization within 30 days of an asylum seeker’s application filing date.

The final rule comes after a number of policy changes meant to drastically reduce asylum claims, including the “Remain in Mexico” program, metered entry at the border, immediate “expulsion” of migrants under new pandemic policy, and raised eligibility standards for asylum seekers proposed as an unpublished rule in the Federal Register on June 15.

“What we’re seeing can only be characterized as an all-out blitz on the very concept of asylum in the U.S.,” concluded Vignarajah. “These policies either slam the door shut on asylum seekers, or inflict a nightmare of impossible living conditions on those fortunate enough to be here already.”

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America. 

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