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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Endorses Rep. Pingree’s Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, Urges Swift Action in Congress

The Chamber said action on Pingree’s bipartisan bill would be ‘a good start’ to making ‘meaningful progress to secure America’s borders and modernize the broken immigration system.’

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today welcomed U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of her Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, bipartisan legislation that reduces the current 180-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. In a letter to Members of Congress, the Chamber said action on Pingree’s bill—as well as 15 other bipartisan bills—would be “a good start” to making “meaningful progress to secure America’s borders and modernize the broken immigration system.” Pingree’s bill would also eliminate the cumbersome 2-year renewal schedule. The bill makes no changes to law or regulation relating to the asylum process, but would have a significant impact on new asylum seekers in Maine—allowing them to gain work more quickly, become self-sufficient through the process of establishing roots in their new community, and contribute to our economy.

“My bipartisan bill is a commonsense solution that gives asylum seekers an opportunity to live a safe, fulfilling life while giving our economy the boost it so desperately needs,” said Pingree. “It’s my hope that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement will spark immediate action among my colleagues to take up this important bill. Our communities, local governments, small businesses, and new neighbors are counting on us.”

Under a federal law passed in 1996, asylum seekers are required to wait at least half a year after filing an asylum petition before being able to obtain authorization to work. This law requires that, once a person filed an asylum claim, they must wait 150 days before being able to apply for a work authorization, which can be granted no earlier than 180 days after the filing of the asylum claim. Often, because of technical issues and delays in processing work authorization requests, this time period is much longer. 

In 2020, the Trump administration introduced a change that more than doubled the period of time asylum seekers must wait to apply for work authorization from 150 days to 365 days. In response, Pingree led a group of 50 members of Congress in voicing their strong opposition to Trump’s proposed rule in a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This rule was implemented in August 2020, but overturned in February 2022. 

Pingree’s Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act is supported by national and state immigration groups including Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP), Maine Business Immigration Coalition (MeBIC), Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition (MIRC), Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Immigration Forum, National Retail Federation (NRF), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

The Chamber’s full letter is available here and copied below. 


To the Members of the United States Congress:

Securing America’s borders and modernizing our broken immigration system are imperative for businesses and communities to prosper and grow.  The antiquated legal immigration system and its woefully insufficient supply of worker visas have for years significantly hindered the ability of companies to meet their workforce needs. In addition, the vast shortcomings of the legal immigration system are a significant contributing factor to the continuing challenges at the southern border.  

We believe Congress must act, and as we stated at the launch of the Legal Immigration and Border Enforcement Reform This Year (LIBERTY) Campaign in May 2023, which now has the support of more than 440 national, state, and local business organizations, the only way Congress can effectively address these challenges is to reach across party lines and work together.

We commend the work of Members of Congress from both parties that have put forth bipartisan, common-sense solutions.  We believe these bills would achieve important progress toward addressing our nation’s immigration and border security challenges:

  • H.R. 3599, DIGNIDAD (Dignity) Act, which would significantly increase the resources needed to secure our borders, make several commonsense reforms to America’s asylum laws, clear out the visa backlogs, and provide businesses with expanded access to the workers they need.
  • S. 243, Port of Entry Maintenance Proposal, which would provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) greater flexibility to maintain their facilities necessary to perform entry inspections and prevent the entry of illicit drugs and contraband.
  • S. 2278, Border Enforcement, Security, and Trade (BEST) Facilitation Act of 2023, which would establish new image adjudicator positions within CBP to inspect containers and conveyances to prevent contraband, illicit drugs, and unauthorized foreign nationals from entering the U.S.
  • H.R. 4708, HIRE ACT, which would eliminate red tape for seasonal employers by extending the validity for labor certifications and petitions for H-2 workers and codify visa interview waiver authority for returning H-2 workers.
  • H.R. 3734, Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, which would create a nonimmigrant pilot program for employers to obtain workers in non-seasonal blue collar jobs.  Currently, the only programs that provide access to workers in retail, construction, restaurants, hospitality, among other industries, require that the job be seasonal, which forecloses options for many businesses.
  • H.R. 1535, Eliminating Backlogs Act, which would recapture unused employment-based immigrant visas going from FY1992-FY2021 and exempt those visas from the per-country caps to further alleviate significant visa processing backlogs.
  • H.R. 2393, Combating Cartels on Social Media Act of 2023, which would combat the use of social media by transnational criminal organizations seeking to recruit individuals in the United States to support their illicit activities.
  • H.R. 16, American Dream and Promise Act of 2023, which would provide Dreamers, individuals who were brought here as children and are in the U.S. without legal status, and long-term recipients of Temporary Protected Status, with the ability to obtain lawful permanent resident status.
  • H.R. 3442/S. 1667, Protecting Children of Long-Term Visa Holders Act of 2023, which would provide certainty for the children of individuals who are stuck in green card processing backlogs. When these children reach age 21, they no longer qualify as dependents and lose their legal status.  
  • H.Res. 481, BridgeUSA Resolution, which is a statement of support for the BridgeUSA Exchange Visitor Programs that help many seasonal businesses meet their workforce needs, but also serve as a critical soft power foreign policy tool enabling cultural exchanges where foreign nationals to live, work, and learn in the U.S.
  • H.R. 1325/S. 255, Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023, which would expedite the process by which prospective asylees can obtain an employment authorization document.
  • H.R. 4627/S. 2327, Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide our Afghan allies and their families with the ability to obtain permanent resident status and create enhanced vetting procedures to help improve our national security.
  • S. 665, Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize and expand the program that allows foreign-national physicians to work in medically underserved areas in the U.S. once their exchange program is finished.
  • S. 1253, Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2023, which would require CBP to hire new officers until the agency meets its workforce staffing models to sufficiently secure our borders and ports of entry.
  • H.R. 3308/S. 874, Farm Operations Support Act, which would help prevent business disruptions afflicting agricultural commodity producers due to the recently implemented Department of Labor Adverse Effect Wage Rate rule.

We believe Congress can make meaningful progress to secure America’s borders and modernize the broken immigration system.  Action on these bipartisan bills would be a good start.


Neil L. Bradley

Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer,

and Head of Strategic Advocacy

U.S. Chamber of Commerce



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