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The Trump Administration Will Soon Deny Work Permits For Asylum-Seekers Who Enter The US Without Authorization

The policy will also block work permits for asylum-seekers who do not file for protections within one year of arrival in the US.

Posted on June 17, 2020, at 4:26 p.m. ET

Marco Ugarte / AP

A Mexican immigration agent escorts people back to Mexico after they applied for asylum in the US, July 18, 2019.

The Trump administration plans to soon announce a policy that will deny work permits for asylum-seekers who cross into the US without authorization, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

The policy, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News in August, will make asylum-seekers who do not cross into the country at a port of entry ineligible for a work permit in most cases. It will also delay the time it takes for those who apply for asylum — either while already in the US or after crossing the border and referred to immigration court — to become qualified to get a work permit, from 150 days to 365 days.

Asylum-seekers who do not file for protections within one year of arriving in the US will also be denied a permit.

The administration released an initial version of the policy in November and waited for public comments. Now it will be included in a final rule, which generally takes effect two months after publishing.

It was not immediately clear exactly when the announcement would occur, but the change will join a long line of efforts to dissuade asylum-seekers from coming to the southern border. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a separate proposal that would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain asylum altogether.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, DHS officials have turned away thousands of immigrants, including asylum-seekers, at the southern border by using a March order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that bars entry to those who attempt to cross into the US without authorization.

In 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo directing US Citizenship and Immigration Services to draft proposals that would limit work permits for asylum-seekers who crossed the border without authorization. The proposed regulation is believed to have been pushed aggressively by White House officials.

Immigrant advocates said the policy would force asylum-seekers to go into the shadows.

“The Trump administration is moving to deny work authorization to nearly every asylum-seeker just days after proposing a separate rule that would result in near-universal asylum denials,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council. “As we said when the rule was first proposed, the new change will leave asylum-seekers begging for food and shelter, with no ability to legally work during the years-long process of seeking protection.”

Instead, he said, the new rule will force tens of thousands of people to rely on charity or work off the books just to put food on the table.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.