This month, the Trump Administration has unleashed two far-reaching attacks on the U.S. asylum system and on asylum seekers. The first attack was the June 15, 2020 publication of proposed rules that would eviscerate the U.S. asylum system and make it next-to-impossible for anyone from a political activist in Uganda to a woman fleeing gender violence in El Salvador to obtain asylum in the United States due to the breadth of the proposed asylum restrictions.
The second attack was the release of a final rule, set to be published on June 26, 2020, which completely transforms the eligibility criteria for asylum seekers to obtain employment authorization, including requiring asylum seekers to wait one year after filing their asylum application before they are eligible to apply for employment authorization. This will leave many future asylum seekers unable to support themselves and their families while they wait for decisions on their cases.
As terrible as these changes will be for asylum seekers and their families, it is important to know that neither change is currently in effect.
Proposed Rules to Change the U.S. Asylum System
Status: Not yet final. Subject to notice-and-comment period.
The dramatic changes to the asylum system announced in the June 15, 2020 proposed rules are currently subject to a notice-and-comment period. Submitting comments in response to the proposed rules will be critical in the effort to prevent the rules from being finalized in their current form. NIJC and partner organizations across the country are drafting comments to the proposed rules and hope that NIJC pro bono attorneys will participate in this effort as well.
For more information on opposing the proposed rules by submitting a comment on or before July 15, 2020, please go to https://immigrantjustice.salsalabs.org/asylumcomment-attorneys.
Final Rule to Change Eligibility Criteria for Asylum Applicant EADs
Status: Final. Published on June 26, 2020. Not in effect until August 25, 2020.
While the changes to the asylum seeker employment authorization eligibility criteria are final, they will not go into effect until 60 days after the publication date (August 25, 2020). At that point, the changes still generally do not apply (with some minor exceptions) to employment authorization applications that were postmarked before August 25, 2020, are accepted as properly filed, and deemed pending on the that date. For that reason, NIJC strongly encourages pro bono attorneys with asylum clients who are eligible for initial applications for employment authorization to file their applications as soon as possible prior to August 25, 2020.
It is important to note that one of the changes in the final rule makes asylum seekers ineligible for employment authorization (with limited exceptions) if they filed for asylum past their one-year deadline. Significantly, however, this provision will only be applied to individuals who filed for asylum past their one-year deadline after August 25, 2020. For this reason, it may be critical for an asylum seeker who has not yet filed for asylum and is past her one-year deadline to do so prior to August 25, 2020. Please contact your NIJC point-of-contact as soon as possible if you have a case that meets this criteria.
NIJC will provide additional information and guidance for pro bono attorneys regarding this new rule prior to the effective date.