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Reps. Pingree, Escobar Urge DHS to Shorten Wait Time for Work Authorization for Asylum Applicants

Today, U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) led a letter to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas urging the agency to shorten the wait time for work authorization for asylum applicants.   

The letter, signed by nine additional Members, comes as border communities face an increase in migrant arrivals.  

“Until Congress takes action on comprehensive immigration reform, our best course of action is a multi-pronged approach that can help us address pressing economic needs and better manage the border – which has overwhelmed agents for far too long, stressed communities, and presented indignities to vulnerable migrants for decades,” wrote the lawmakers.  

“We write to you today to urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider issuing a rule to shorten the wait time for work authorization for asylum applicants whose asylum claims have not been deemed frivolous, and who are not in detention, to 30 days,” continued the lawmakers. “This ask comes as the United States faces labor shortages across many industries and on the heels of the misleading national spotlight being cast once again by extremists on immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.” 

The lawmakers added, “Issuing a rule to allow asylum seekers to apply for work authorization concurrently with their underlying asylum application and shorten the wait time for eligibility to just 30 days would allow applicants with credible claims, who are already on their way to establishing themselves in the U.S., to more quickly be able to provide for themselves and their families, which in turn builds community and helps address employee shortages across several key U.S. industries.” 

“To tackle immigration effectively, we need a whole-of-government approach that meets the needs of asylum seekers by setting them up with the tools they need to support themselves and their families, tackles irregular migration through new and effective legal pathways, and modernizes the way we receive and process migrants at the border. Our border communities are working tirelessly to provide migrants with assistance as they begin the asylum process, but there are ways in which the federal government can and must step up to further empower asylum seekers as they work toward a better life for themselves and their families,” concluded the lawmakers. 

In addition to Pingree and Escobar, the letter was signed by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The full text of the letter can be found here

In February, Pingree reintroduced her Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, legislation that reduces the current 365-day waiting period for work authorization eligibility to 30 days, allowing an asylum seeker to apply for authorization as soon as the asylum claim is filed. The bill makes no changes to law or regulation relating to the asylum process. This could have an impact on new asylum seekers in Maine—allowing them to gain work, be self-sufficient through the process of establishing roots in their new community and contribute to our economy.




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