Take Action: Help Asylum Seekers Work!

The Trump administration is trying to make it harder for asylum seekers–and a small but heartening number of asylum seekers ARE making it in–to get jobs once they are here.

Here’s what you can do to stymie that effort. But you have to do it now–the deadline for filing protests against this move is Monday, Jan. 13.

This proposal is pending before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Currently, an asylum seeker must wait 180 days after applying for asylum to become eligible to get a work permit. Trump’s new proposal would to double that waiting period to a full year for those who entered the U.S. at a land or airport border post. And, for those who bypassed border posts, the government would issue no work permits at all while asylum applications are pending. 

Right now, U.S. law says any asylum application MUST be resolved in four months. Despite that, asylum seeks might wait up to five years for an immigration court to grant or deny a request for asylum.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our government observed our laws?

This is all happening when employers across the country are asking the government to let in MORE workers (see below for more on that).

Meanwhile here is what you can do NOW. Please click here and then copy and paste any or all of the talking points below to explain why you’re opposing the proposed rule  Asylum Application, Interview, and Employment Authorization for Applicants

Note: These points are courtesy of the Maine Immigrant Business Coalition, as edited by my buddy in activism, Nadine Godwin.

• The American ideal is self-reliance! Since when does this country want to force people to depend on others? This is a waste of human resources and an assault on the dignity of people who would rather support themselves than be dependent.

• Then there are the economics. For the asylum seekers, the USCIS estimates their total ANNUAL lost income will range from $1.7 billion to more than $4.1 billion. Further, the USCIS estimates that lost federal payroll taxes could reach as high as $682.9 million annually. 

The USCIS doesn’t mention lost state income taxes, nor does it acknowledge that asylum seekers’ incomes are spent locally, supporting local businesses, paying local sales taxes and generating economic activity. This rule would harm the economy at local and the national levels.

• When asylum seekers cannot work, prospective employers cannot hire them — at a time when national unemployment is at a 50-year low (3.5% as of November 2019), and the USCIS acknowledges this. Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are a million-plus more job openings nationwide than there are job seekers.

In its proposal, the USCIS estimates the annual impact of its proposal on businesses, saying that if companies cannot find reasonable labor substitutes for positions the asylum applicants would have filled, “then $4,461.9 million is the estimated monetized cost of the rule.” That’s $4.46 billion if employers are never able to hire someone else.

Businesses will sometimes find needed staffing without relying on asylum seekers, but not always, so the cost of the rule for American businesses in lost productivity, missed opportunities for growth, etc., will still be a big number.

• The USCIS says it wants to deter people from filing for asylum just to get a work permit.  But the rule will harm legitimate asylum seekers who have the legal right to seek safety. Meanwhile, the USCIS could eliminate its concerns about fraudulent efforts to get work permits by fulfilling legal requirements to decide asylum applications within four months! The solution is for the government to do a better job of complying with existing law.

• The proposed rule would discourage people from exercising their legal right, under existing U.S. laws, to apply for safe haven in the U.S. when they fear specific harm at home. Those fleeing persecution have the legal right to ask for protection in the U.S., but they shouldn’t have to starve or beg for charity to exercise that right.

Now that you’ve done that, here’s a little more background info.

American Employers Are CLAMORING For More Workers

The U.S. needs workers. Employers across the nation are crying for workers across the nation and see immigrants–and asylum seekers are immigrants–as a source of workers. Pro-immigrant employer groups are working on this across the nations and include states like Texas, seemingly lily white Maine and more. Entire industries are telling the administration they want more immigrants to fill open positions. Fox Business reported that the construction industry is asking for more immigration so companies can fill those jobs. These are hard-working people. A pro-refugee employer in Arkansas told me that there is one thing immigrants want: more hours!

Finally, it’s just the right thing to do, as eloquently pointed out in this Washington Post editorial.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

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