Nessel urges Trump admin to withdraw proposal limiting asylum-seekers’ working rights

    Immigrant rights rally at the Capitol, July 12, 2019 | Derek Robertson

    Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 18 other attorneys general last week in opposing a President Trump administration proposed rule that would eliminate the 30-day timeframe for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review asylum-seekers’ work permit applications. 

    Dana Nessel
    Attorney General Dana Nessel in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

    Under the current system, asylum-seekers can apply for a work permit or Employment Authorization Document if their asylum application has been pending for 150 days. Once they file their application for employment authorization, USCIS must act on it within 30 days.

    If this move is approved, asylum-seekers could wait indefinitely to find out if they will be authorized to work.

    “This proposal would directly harm our communities by placing unnecessary burdens on families simply seeking to make an honest living and it ignores the vital economic contributions of immigrants throughout our state and this country,” said Nessel. “Furthermore, proposing this rule without seeking the input of the states – which ensure assistance and programs are accessible, and see first-hand the challenges asylum-seekers face – is just irresponsible.”

    As it stands, 96% of work permit applications are handled within the regulatory timeframe. The proposed rule would result in a 21% drop in timely adjudications. According to USCIS estimates, this change would result in up to nearly $775 million in lost compensation annually.

    Nessel signs letter opposing Trump asylum rule

    “Michigan is home to a significant number of refugees and asylees, and the delay in obtaining authorization will have an adverse effect not only on their ability to obtain work, but also on the state’s economy,” Nessel’s staff wrote in a press release Wednesday. “Immigrant households contribute more than one billion dollars in state and local taxes every year and play an integral role in ensuring the success of Michigan’s economy.”

    The press release also states the proposed rule threatens asylum-seekers and their families by making them more likely to seek work through exploitative employers, accept unstable incomes and unable to hire an attorney, which could hinder their ability to establish a successful asylum claim.

    Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington in filing this comment letter.

    Allison Donahue
    Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.