NJ urges withdrawal of rule that may stall asylum-Seeker work permit applications

Law & Order. NJ Attorney General Grewal says asylum-seekers and their families may be more likely to seek work through exploitative employers in the underground economy, unless the US does not hinder the ability of asylum-seekers to receive work permits.

09 Nov 2019 | 10:39

    Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today released a multi-state letter with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 17 other Attorneys General opposing a Trump Administration rule that, if adopted, would significantly hinder the ability of asylum-seekers to get work permits.

    Currently, asylum-seekers are able to seek authorization to work lawfully in the United States if their asylum applications have been pending for at least 150 days, and then the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has 30 days to review and approve or deny that individual’s work authorization application.

    However, a proposed Administration rule would completely eliminate USCIS’s 30-day timeframe, meaning that USCIS could fail to provide an answer on work authorization for an asylum-seeker indefinitely. Forcing asylum-seekers to wait unspecified amounts of time before learning if they will be authorized to work not only harms the asylum-seekers and their families, but also the states where they live.

    “This rule is another example of the Administration’s disregard for the well-being of asylum-seekers, despite the United States’ rich history of protecting those who seek refuge in our country,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The federal government’s new proposal will leave asylum-seekers in limbo, unable to earn a living and support their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule not only hurts asylum-seekers, it’s also bad for states like New Jersey, because it marginalizes thousands of people who could otherwise be working, paying taxes, and further contributing to their communities. We’re proud to push back against the federal government’s actions.”

    “It defies logic that the Trump Administration would make it harder for those seeking asylum to work,” said New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “The United States and New Jersey have always been welcoming and a land of opportunity. Why would we deny that opportunity to those seeking asylum who are ready and willing to contribute to our economy? This continuous effort by the Administration to thwart those seeking refuge and asylum is wrong for our country and we urge its withdrawal.”

    New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said, “By taking this action, the federal government is unduly punishing asylum-seekers for pursuing the dignity of work. This hurts our economy by depriving the state of employment taxes, and our employers, who need a reliable workforce to remain competitive. Unfortunately, this short-sighted approach also heightens the risk that these asylum-seekers will be forced underground, where they have no work rights or safety protections.”

    Under the current system, asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit – formally known as an Employment Authorization Document -- if their asylum application has been pending for 150 days. Once an application for employment authorization is filed, USCIS must act on it within 30 days. Currently, 96 percent of work permit applications are handled within the regulatory timeframe.

    New Jersey, California and the other participating states believe the proposed rule would result in a significant drop in timely adjudications. According to USCIS’ own estimates, such delays would result in up to approximately $775 million in lost compensation annually.

    Across the country, immigrant households contribute billions of dollars in state and local taxes every year. New Jersey and the other opposing states contend that forcing asylum-seekers to wait even longer than they currently do before being able to legally work in the U.S. will negatively impact state economies.

    The proposed rule also threatens asylum-seekers and their families by making them more likely to seek work through exploitative employers in the underground economy.

    Moreover, the states contend, asylum-seekers without a stable income source are less likely to be able to hire an attorney. That, in turn, can disrupt their ability to successfully establish a legitimate asylum claim.