Attorney general, counterparts ask Trump not to extend waiting time for asylum seekers’ work permits

Attorney General Aaron Ford, as well as 18 other Democratic attorneys general, have filed a comment letter with the federal government opposing the Trump administration’s proposed rule to extend the waiting period for asylum seekers trying to get work permits.

Currently, there is a 30-day deadline for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review asylum-seekers’ work permit applications. Under the new proposed rule, the waiting period could grow to an indefinite amount of time before asylum seekers are able to work, which would greatly affect Nevada’s communities, Ford said.

“Those seeking asylum in Nevada and around the country are already faced with many challenges and obstacles,” Ford said in a press release on Friday. “Delaying decisions on their work permits only makes their adjustment to life in the United States that much more difficult. Here in Nevada, we welcome new members of our community, especially those in dire need of assistance.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explained why it wanted to remove the 30-day deadline in the Federal Register, the official journal of the U.S. government. 

“This change is intended to ensure USCIS has sufficient time to receive, screen, and process applications for an initial grant of employment authorization based on a pending asylum application,” the agency wrote. “This change will also reduce opportunities for fraud and protect the security-related processes undertaken for each EAD application.”

Asylum-seekers are able to apply for a work permit or Employment Authorization Document (EAD) once their asylum application has been pending for 150 days. After that, they are able to file for their employment authorization, and USCIS is obligated to reach a decision within 30 days.

Under the proposed new rule, the added wait time could cost $775 million in lost annual compensation and would force people to find work without legal authorization to do so, the attorneys general wrote.

The other attorneys general that signed the comment letter represent California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.