AG Nessel Joins 18 AGs to Urge Federal Government to Withdraw Proposal Obstructing Asylum-Seekers' Ability to Work

Contact: Kelly Rossman-McKinney 517-335-7666
Agency: Attorney General

November 13, 2019

LANSING Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel late last week joined 18 other Attorneys General in opposing a Trump Administration proposed rule that would eliminate the 30-day time frame currently in place for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review asylum-seekers’ work permit applications. This move would significantly hinder the ability of asylum-seekers to get work permits by forcing them to wait indefinitely to find out if they will be authorized to work.

“This proposal would directly harm our communities by placing unnecessary burdens on families simply seeking to make an honest living and it ignores the vital economic contributions of immigrants throughout our state and this country,” said Nessel. “Furthermore, proposing this rule without seeking the input of the states – which ensure assistance and programs are accessible, and see first-hand the challenges asylum-seekers face – is just irresponsible.”

Delaying decisions on work permits harms asylum-seekers and their families by preventing them from finding work, potentially making it more difficult for them to adjust to life in the United States. Under the current system, asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit or Employment Authorization Document if their asylum application has been pending for 150 days. Once they file their application for employment authorization, USCIS must act on it within 30 days.

Currently, 96 percent of work permit applications are handled within the regulatory time frame. Nevertheless, USCIS is seeking to create further delays in the existing system. In fact, the proposed rule would result in a 21-percent drop in timely adjudications, which – according to USCIS’ own estimates – would result in up to nearly $775 million in lost compensation annually.

Michigan is home to a significant number of refugees and asylees, and the delay in obtaining authorization will have an adverse effect not only on their ability to obtain work, but also on the state’s economy. Immigrant households contribute more than one billion dollars in state and local taxes every year and play an integral role in ensuring the success of Michigan’s economy.

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, asylum-seekers without a stable income source are less likely to be able to hire an attorney, which can disrupt their ability to successfully establish a legitimate asylum claim.

Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in filing this comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter is available here.

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