Posted on September 9, 2019

Agency Would Raise Bar for Asylum Seekers’ Work Permits

Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2019

The Trump administration wants to make it harder for asylum seekers to receive work permits while they wait for their cases to be decided, a move that could deter some immigrants from entering the country illegally.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes asylum applications, announced Friday it will propose a rule next week scrapping a requirement that asylum seekers receive a work permit within 30 days of applying for one.

Unauthorized immigrants must already wait at least five months after filing an asylum petition to apply for a work permit in the U.S., and immigration attorneys say many immigrants might wait up to a year after arriving in the country to receive the permit.

In a statement, USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said the agency wants to do away with the 30-day deadline to allow it more time to screen applicants for national security and other concerns.


By doing away with the 30-day deadline, the government isn’t obligated to grant these immigrants work permits at all. Federal law states that asylum seekers may work but aren’t entitled to do so.

The administration has long argued that migrants from Central America, who make up the majority of those illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, are attracted by the U.S. asylum system. Immigrants who pass an initial “credible fear” interview are often allowed to remain in the U.S. for years as their claims wend their way through the backlogged immigration-court system, and in the meantime these immigrants are permitted to work.

Previous administrations have viewed work permits as a way of making sure these asylum seekers remain self-sufficient in the U.S. But the Trump administration regards the opportunity to work — and send remittances back to workers’ home countries — as a major driver of illegal immigration.