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Article: USCIS Wants to Make it Harder for Asylum Seekers to Get Work Permits By Emily Creighton

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  • Article: USCIS Wants to Make it Harder for Asylum Seekers to Get Work Permits By Emily Creighton

    USCIS Wants to Make it Harder for Asylum Seekers to Get Work Permits

    by


    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed a rule that will further delay asylum seekers’ ability to receive work authorization.

    Under current law, USCIS must grant or deny an initial asylum applicant’s employment authorization application within 30 days. Under the proposed rule, USCIS would have no time frame in which it must decide the initial application.

    An asylum applicant already must wait at least six months before receiving employment authorization if their asylum application has not already been decided. The 30-day rule allows an asylum applicant to apply for work authorization at the 150-day mark and have a decision by day 180.

    Even with the 30-day rule, USCIS historically took far longer than 30 days to decide applications for employment authorization until a class-action lawsuit challenged the agency’s failure to comply with the 30-day deadline. In 2018, the court ordered USCIS to follow the 30-day rule.

    The agency now would like to reverse these developments.

    USCIS states that the rule change will help “ensure USCIS has sufficient time to receive, screen and process” applications for employment authorization, but the agency seems laser-focused on fraud, stating that it needs more time to “reduce opportunities for fraud and protect the security-related processes” as it decides applications.

    The agency, however, provides no evidence of fraud or security-related concerns related to the employment authorization process. It only vaguely references additional vetting and background checks that may take longer than 30 days.

    Instead of devoting resources to comply with the regulatory time frame, USCIS is relinquishing responsibility for helping asylum applicants become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.

    The impact of the delay caused by eliminating the 30-day rule would be multi-fold.

    According to USCIS, the lost compensation to asylum applicants could range from approximately $255 to $744.76 million annually. Annual employment tax losses to the government could range from $39.15 to $118.54 million.

    If this proposed rule goes into effect, asylum seekers will have even less assurance that they will be able to support themselves or their family during what is often a long and difficult asylum application process.

    USCIS is in fact working against the idea that asylum applicants—who often have limited community connections and few resources—should independently support themselves as quickly as possible. The agency invokes security and fraud concerns to distract from its failure to meet a basic bureaucratic mandate—to timely adjudicate applications for employment authorization.

    FILED UNDER:

    This post originally appeared on Immigration Impact. Reprinted with permission.


    About The Author

    Emily Creighton is the Directing Attorney for Transparency at the American Immigration Council. She oversees the development of the Council's transparency-related litigation, amicus briefs, practice advisories and advocacy, including maintaining an active docket of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases. She seeks to uncover agency records that will advance litigation, advocacy and research efforts to combat abuses at the border and unlawful enforcement tactics, promote fair and just removal processes, and shed light on unlawful adjudications of immigration benefits. She also seeks to strengthen collaboration among organizations involved in open government work in the immigration space. Prior to her new role at the Council, she served as the Senior Advisor on Humanitarian Programs at the CIS Ombudsman's Office from 2016 to 2017. Previous to that, she was a Senior Staff Attorney with the Council. As a staff attorney, she engaged in impact litigation, representing amicus curiae in immigration cases in federal court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and authored numerous practice advisories. Emily holds a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law and a B.A. from Boston College.


    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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