Trump Administration to Asylum Seekers: Find a Homeless Shelter

The advice comes as part of a plan to prevent many asylum seekers from working.

Stefani Reynolds/ZUMA

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As the Trump administration readies a plan to bar many asylum seekers from working, it has some advice for them: Start getting familiar with “homelessness resources.”

Currently, asylum seekers are allowed to apply for work permits 150 days after submitting their asylum applications. A new rule released Monday by the Department of Homeland Security would extend the waiting period to a full year, and it would prohibit work permits for asylum seekers who cross the border without authorization, which is often the only way for them to avoid waiting in dangerous border cities to request asylum at official ports of entry. 

In response to a draft of the rule released in November, critics wrote in public comments that the rule could force asylum seekers into homelessness. DHS responded to those comments in the final version of the plan released Monday: “Asylum seekers who are concerned about homelessness during the pendency of their employment authorization waiting period should become familiar with the homelessness resources provided by the state where they intend to reside.”

That recommendation is buried on page 213 of the new DHS rule, which the agency plans to put into effect later this year. It was noticed on Twitter by Yael Schacher, a senior US advocate at Refugees International.

There are many arguments against the rule change. The government did a remarkably good job of summarizing them before providing rebuttals like the one concerning homelessness. Here are those objections, according to DHS:

A majority of the commenters opposed the rule. Many commenters were concerned that the rule would place an “inordinate burden” on asylum seekers, many of whom are impoverished and “will not have the ability to work immediately upon their arrival into the United States.” Many commenters argued that asylum seekers should be allowed to work and support their families while they are in the United States. The commenters believed that allowing asylum seekers to work would promote self-sufficiency, alleviate the need for them to rely on government benefits, save U.S. taxpayer dollars, and reduce the incentives to work illegally. The commenters also believed that asylum seekers should be able to contribute to the U.S. economy, realize the American dream, and integrate into American society. 

Several commenters felt that the rule was immoral, cruel, and inhumane, because many asylum seekers who had already fled persecution in their home countries and were already poor and destitute would have to wait even longer before they could start a new life in America and support themselves and their families. Some commenters argued that denying work to asylum seekers was not in keeping with Christian and American values. Other commenters believed that the motives behind the promulgation of the rule were not deterrence but based on xenophobia and racism.

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