AG Racine Leads Multistate Coalition Opposing Trump Move To Double Asylum Seekers’ Wait To Legally Work

21 Attorneys General Argue the DHS Proposed Rule Would Violate Federal Law, Prolong Unemployment for Asylum Seekers, Harm State Economies

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a coalition of 21 states in opposing an unlawful Trump administration effort to obstruct asylum seekers from applying for work permits. The coalition filed a comment letter with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) arguing that its proposed rule introduces delays, confusion, and unnecessary administrative burdens into the work permit and asylum application processes. Among other changes, this rule requires asylum seekers to wait 365 days from the date their asylum application is received—more than double the time currently required—before they can apply for a work permit. This rule would dramatically delay the ability of asylum seekers to legally earn wages and become self-sufficient, harm state economies, and violate federal law.

Our asylum process was once a proud example of our country’s respect for human rights and leadership around the world, but this administration’s new work authorization restrictions trample on that legacy,” said AG Racine. Doubling the time asylum seekers in the District must wait to obtain work permits leaves them in limbo, unable to legally make a living and provide for their families. We must see this for what it is: an improper and unlawful effort to dissuade people from applying for protection in the United States. Our coalition of State Attorneys General is proud to fight this callous policy that marginalizes our most vulnerable residents and to stand up for our immigrant communities.

Under current law, asylum seekers already face a significant period of unemployment before they can apply to legally work in the United States. Asylum seekers can apply for a work permit—also known as an Employment Authorization Document—if their complete asylum application was received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has been pending for 150 days. Once asylum seekers file their application for a work permit, USCIS must act on it within 30 days. The proposed rule seeks to more than double the time period an asylum seeker must wait before applying for a work permit by increasing it to 365 days. The proposed rule also introduces other changes to the work permit and asylum application processes which make them more burdensome and unfair.

The proposed DHS rule is the latest in a series of unlawful attempts by the Trump administration to change federal immigration policy in ways that harm asylum seekers. The comment letter urges DHS to withdraw this proposed rule because:

  • Delaying or denying work authorization harms asylum seekers and their families: By more than doubling the waiting period required to submit work permit applications, the proposed rule dangerously restricts an asylum seeker’s ability to legally earn wages and be self-sufficient. This can push asylum seekers into the underground economy in order to make ends meet, impede their ability to take care of themselves and their families, and harm their health and wellbeing. The proposed rule also completely bars certain groups of asylum seekers from applying for work permits, including those who enter the United States outside a port of entry.
  • Having fewer gainfully employed asylum seekers harms state economies: The States welcome thousands of immigrants each year who contribute greatly to their communities and economies. This is evident in the District where more than one in seven residents, and one in six workers, is an immigrant. The proposed rule will lower tax and spending revenue for the States and harm local businesses that will have to find alternative labor. Additionally, because many asylum seekers will be without employer-provided healthcare or able to purchase healthcare on their own, there will be an increased reliance on state-funded healthcare programs.
  • Implementing the rule violates federal law: The coalition argues the rule would violate the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. Among other violations of the APA, several aspects of the proposed rule are contrary to the Immigration and Nationality Act. DHS also did not conduct the required fiscal impact analysis or consider less burdensome alternatives.

The coalition of 21 states opposing this rule was led by District of Columbia AG Karl Racine, California AG Xavier Becerra, and New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal, and joined by Attorneys General from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Vermont.

The comment letter is available at:

OAG’s Continued Efforts to Protect Immigrants
This is the latest effort by Attorney General Racine to protect established federal immigration policy, keep longtime District residents from losing their protected status, and advocate for immigrants in the District and nationwide. In 2019, the Attorney General led a multistate amicus brief opposing the illegal termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian born residents, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block DHSs Public Charge rule from taking effect, and led a multistate amicus brief challenging the Trump administrations changes to asylum standards in Grace v. Barr. He also joined with other attorneys general to take action against the Trump administration to protect public safety funding for sanctuarycitiesprevent attempts to close the Southern border to asylum seekersblock immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grantsstop a cruel family separation policyfight for hard-working DREAMersto stay in the United States; and to oppose the Muslim travel ban.