The new rule goes into effect on Tuesday 25, restricting and delaying some asylum seekers from legally working in the US in what refugee advocates have said is an attempt to make the lives of persecuted people more difficult, in keeping with the anti-immigrant strategy of the administration of US President Donald Trump.
A series of broad rules issued by the US government that began taking effect on August 21 and finished Tuesday change procedures on obtaining “employment authorization documents” (EAD) necessary for legal employment in the US “is irrational”, Mariko Hirose, a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), told Al Jazeera.
The new rules, which allow greater discretionary power to decline work authorisation to asylum seekers while placing them in a tough financial situation, “serve no purpose other than to make things more difficult for people who leave their countries under circumstances of severe persecution”, Hirose continued.
Hirose is one of IRAP’s lawyers working on a lawsuit (PDF) joined by four other refugee advocate groups challenging the rule.
“EADs are such an important part of making sure asylum seekers can provide for themselves and their families. There’s no federal assistance, and asylum seekers are fleeing persecution from their countries, so they aren’t coming here with money to support themselves”, Hirose said.
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Previously, asylum seekers could receive work authorization within 180 days of applying for asylum. Under the new rules, asylum seekers must wait 365 calendar days before they apply and there is no timeframe for a court to reach a decision on their EAD.
Danilo Zak, a policy and advocacy associate with the National Immigration Forum, told Al Jazeera “it’s a really long time if you’re an asylum seeker, trying hire a lawyer” or “provide for children”.
The new rules also mean that if an applicant causes a delay in the application process, including a change of address or applying to submit further evidence to support the claim, the employment authorisation will be denied.
The rules also make issuing EADs “discretionary rather than mandatory”, Zak continued. That means asylum seekers can do everything correctly, but still not receive work authorisation.
A draft of the rules was made public for a comment period in November, Zak said.
When respondents raised concerns about the financial restraints the rules would cause, including homelessness, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) replied, “Asylum seekers who are concerned about homelessness … should become familiar with the homelessness resources provided by the state where they intend to reside.” Read here