The Trump administration plans to shortly announce a policy denying work permits to asylum seekers entering the U.S. without a permit, according to two well-informed sources.
The policy, first reported by BuzzFeed News in August, bans asylum seekers who do not enter the country at a port of entry for work permits in most cases. It will also delay the time it takes for those seeking asylum – either already in the U.S. or after crossing the border and referral to immigration court – to qualify for work permits, from 150 days to 365 days.
Asylum seekers who do not apply for protection within a year of arriving in the US will also be denied permission.
The administration released a first version of the policy in November and awaited public comments. Now it will be included in a final rule that will usually take effect two months after it is published.
It wasn’t immediately clear when exactly the announcement would be made, but the change will join a long series of efforts to deter asylum seekers from coming to the southern border. Last week the Department of Homeland Security released a separate proposal that would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain asylum altogether.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, DHS officials have turned away thousands of immigrants, including asylum seekers, from the southern border using a March Order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blocking access to those who try to invade the virus the US without permission.
In 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo instructing the U.S. citizenship and immigration authorities to come up with proposals to restrict work permits for asylum seekers who crossed the border without authorization. The proposed regulation is believed to have been aggressively promoted by White House officials.
Immigrant advocates said the policy would force asylum seekers to step into the shadows.
“The Trump administration is trying to deny almost every asylum seeker work permits just days after proposing a separate rule that would lead to near universal asylum refusal,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, political scientist with the American Immigration Council. “As we said when the rule was first proposed, asylum seekers will be begging for food and shelter due to the new change and will not be able to work legally during the long process of seeking protection.”
Instead, he said, the new rule will force tens of thousands of people to rely on charity or work out the books just to put food on the table.