The Trump administration is making it harder for asylum-seeking migrants to obtain work permits, CBS News reports.
A new rule, effective Tuesday, will require migrants to wait 365 days from the day they file their asylum petition before applying for a work permit. Previously, the wait time was 150 days. The rule change also prohibits asylum-seekers from being able to request work authorization if they crossed the border illegally.
The new rule follows another recently implemented rule change that eliminated the 30-day window that U.S. government adjudicators previously had to approve work authorization petitions from eligible asylum-seekers.
A single mother of two young children seeking asylum from her native country of Guatemala told CBS News she is worried about being able to support her family. She said under the new rule, she won’t be able to apply for a work permit until April 2021. Under the former rule, she would have been eligible to apply for a work permit next week.
"We need work permits to cover our basic necessities, especially for our children," W.L., who asked for her initials to be used instead of her full name, told CBS News in Spanish.
W.L. lives in Ohio. She is one of the migrants involved in a national lawsuit fighting the policies. Advocates working to help asylum-seekers say the new policies could make low-income asylum-seekers vulnerable to homelessness, hunger, work exploitation and limited access to medical care, according to CBS News.
Conchita Cruz, co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, which is W.L.'s legal services provider, said the new rules are not in line with the Trump administration's position that immigrant communities should be self-sufficient.
"It does not make sense to put hurdles in the way of asylum applicants getting work authorization and being able to work legally and being able to support their family — especially during a global pandemic," Cruz told CBS News. "That flies in the face of any other goal of ensuring that asylum applicants are able to work and sustain themselves."
W.L. said she didn’t come to the U.S. “just for the money" but to escape her situation.
According to her asylum application, she was repeatedly raped in Guatemala by her former boss. She said after her son was born, her abuser, who is his father, refused to help support him financially. After she was threatened by his family, she left. Her 9-month-old daughter is a U.S. citizen.
She said she turned down several offers to work under the table because she wants to “do things the right way.”
The organizations who filed the lawsuit in the Maryland district court are hoping to convince the judge that the rules violate federal administrative law and are invalid because they were approved by acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who they argue was unlawfully appointed to his role.
They are using a report from the Government Accountability Office that found that Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, were both improperly appointed to their roles. That finding has been rejected by the Department of Homeland of Security.
Commenting on the rule change, Homeland Security officials noted there are concerns but disagreed with the idea that the policy is "overly burdensome, cruel, or precludes aliens from becoming self-sufficient."
In regard to the rule possibly leaving asylum-seekers unable to pay for housing, the department said those concerned about becoming homeless "should become familiar with the homelessness resources provided by the state where they intend to reside."
Cruz called the department’s response "callous" and "cruel."
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