On June 16, 2020, the Trump Administration published a final rule making it harder of immigrants with pending asylum applications to receive employment authorization documents. According to the government, the rule is aimed at reducing incentives for immigrants to file frivolous asylum applicants in order to obtain work authorization in the United States and aimed at discouraging illegal entry into the United States.
Many immigration and human rights advocates have denounced the Trump Administration’s latest attack on immigrants. “This rule endangers the health, safety and lives of asylum seekers and their families,” said Eleanor Acer, Human Rights First’s senior director for refugee protection. “The rule will prevent many refugees from feeding, supporting, and housing themselves and their families. Asylum seekers and their families already struggle to survive under existing work authorization wait times. But this rule will make survival impossible for many. “
The new rule will go into effect 60 days after June 16, 2020. One of the most significant changes is that it increased the wait time required to apply for work authorization from 150 to 365 days, undermining their ability to feed, house and support their families. New asylum applicants now have to wait a full year from the date that their asylum applications are received by immigration before they are able apply for work permits. It also bars asylum seekers who crossed the border, other than at a port of entry, from receiving a work permit in most cases – a move that would leave asylum seekers without legal authorization for many years. This is not only an attack on the asylum seeker themselves but also on their US citizen families and support system. Many asylum seekers work and contribute to their household. This new regulation turns them into financial burdens for their families in the United States. According to the Department of Homeland Security the 365-waiting period is based on an average of the current processing times for asylum applications which can range from 6 months to over 2 years, before the initial decision from an asylum office.
Asylum applicants who fail to file an asylum application within one year of entering the United States will also be barred from receiving work authorization. These asylum applicants must now first receive a finding that they meet one of the exceptions for filing an asylum application after one year of entered the United States before being able to apply for a work permit with immigration. The new rule also prohibits asylum seekers from receiving work authorization when their cases are being reviewed by U.S. federal courts even when the asylum seeker was ruled eligible for asylum, but the government has decided to appeal the decision.
Immigrants with a criminal conviction in the United States or abroad will also be barred from getting work authorization under this new rule. An asylum applicant will be excluded from eligibility for a work permit if they have been convicted of an aggravated felony under immigration laws, convicted of a serious non-political crime within or outside of the United States, or have been convicted in the United States of a crime involving domestic violence or assault, child abuse or neglect, possession of a controlled substance, or driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Applicants who cause delays in the processing of their asylum application will also be punished by this new rule.
The Trump administration has consistently taken steps to reduce immigration to the United States. This latest rule is just another way that the administration is targeting immigrants and their families. Please keep in mind that immigrants are still able to file for asylum and even under this rule they may still apply for an receive work authorization.
Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of the Elizee Law Firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. She can be reached at phone 305-371-8846.