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Trump Officials Are Seeking To Double The Time Asylum-Seekers Must Wait To Legally Work

The administration is proposing a dramatic increase in the time before an asylum-seeker would become eligible to receive a work permit — from 180 days to 365 days.

Posted on April 10, 2019, at 6:48 p.m. ET

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

US immigration officials are pushing a proposal to significantly increase the amount of time asylum-seekers must wait to obtain a work permit for legal employment in the US, sources close to the administration said Wednesday.

The proposal by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officials, included in a not-yet-finalized regulation, would more than double the time individuals who apply for asylum — either affirmatively while already present in the US or after crossing the border and referred to immigration court — become qualified to receive a work permit, from 180 days to 365 days.

“It doesn’t make any sense. If you’re going to say to a person that they will be considered for asylum and they have to wait, how are they going to feed themselves?” said Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel for USCIS. “How are they going to feed their families? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we want people to do?”

The federal agency, which is responsible for granting or denying immigration benefits to migrants, has also been working on a separate proposal that would institute a $50 fee for those who file for asylum after entering the US, sources said.

Guillermo Arias / AFP / Getty Images

An asylum-seeker rests while he waits in Tijuana for his turn to present himself to US border authorities to request asylum.

The proposed move, if instituted, would be the latest change in the asylum process pushed by the administration, which has long been critical of a protection it says is too often abused. The plans come from the agency headed by Lee Francis Cissna, who is under fire by some White House officials critical of his tenure.

"USCIS conducted its biennial fee review in accordance with the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and non-statutory guidance to study the agency’s revenue, costs, and needs," said Jessica Collins, a USCIS spokeswoman. "As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made."

During his time at USCIS, Cissna has been effective in recasting the agency as one that strictly enforces immigration laws. The agency under Cissna previously pushed a proposal that would deny immigrants who use or are likely to use public benefits, such as food stamps and housing vouchers, green cards or entry into the United States.

Advocates have said that the Trump administration’s changes to asylum, including restricting who qualifies for the protection and a proposed ban on anyone who crossed the border without authorization from receiving it, are illegal and inhumane.

Axios first reported that the administration was considering changes to the process for asylum-seekers to receive work permits.

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.