CGRS Denounces Rule Denying Work Authorization to Asylum Seekers

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) decries the new Trump Administration rule published today that will deprive most asylum seekers of legal work authorization in the United States while their cases are adjudicated. This rule violates our laws and will leave many asylum seekers and their families vulnerable to poverty, homelessness, and exploitative work. When the rule was initially proposed in November, CGRS joined many advocates and allies around the country in submitting formal comments opposing it.

The new rule more than doubles the amount of time asylum seekers must wait before applying for work authorization, extending the wait time to 365 days, and precludes from work authorization those who apply for asylum more than one year after they enter the United States until their case is finally adjudicated. The rule also bars from work authorization those who enter the country between official ports of entry – a move that will exclude nearly everyone arriving at our southern border, which the Trump Administration has all but shuttered to asylum seekers. Among its most punitive provisions, the rule strips asylum seekers of work authorization while their cases are on appeal, even if a court has already found them eligible for asylum and the appeal has been brought by the government.

Extending the time period before asylum seekers can lawfully work – or barring them from work authorization altogether – will exacerbate their already economically and socially vulnerable situations. Asylum seekers are not entitled to most forms of government assistance and social welfare benefits and can support themselves and their families only by working. By denying them the opportunity to do so, this rule puts asylum seekers at great risk of hunger, homelessness, and potentially abusive living situations, as well as trafficking and other coercive employment practices.

“The Trump Administration’s new rule punishes asylum seekers for exercising their right to apply for protection in the United States and forces them into dangerous living conditions for the duration of the asylum process, which can take years,” CGRS Director of Policy & Advocacy Kate Jastram said today. “The rule violates our legal commitments to asylum seekers under the Refugee Convention and Protocol, as well our own immigration laws, and will lead to untold suffering.”