Biden Administration Announces 5-year Work Permits for Asylum Applicants
FAIR Take | October 2023
Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it was extending the length of work permits for illegal aliens who apply for asylum from two years to five years. The announcement comes as the agency – which is responsible for screening and vetting applications for immigration benefits – is completely overwhelmed due to the number of illegal aliens seeking benefits under President Biden’s open-borders policies. The agency states that extending the validity of the work permit to five years will reduce its workload, especially for renewals. The fact is that this seemingly small change has major consequences.
Let’s consider the classes of people seeking employment authorization documents and how this extension will come into play.
First, the number of asylum claims at the border has gone through the roof. And each time an alien crosses the border illegally and claims asylum, he or she has to be screened by a USCIS asylum officer to determine whether the alien demonstrates a credible fear of persecution in his/her home country. This workload at USCIS increased dramatically over the past two and a half years, resulting in officers outside the asylum division being asked to abandon their work to help process credible fear claims. The number of credible fear cases arriving at USCIS increased 16 percent between FY 2021 and FY 2022. So far in 2023, the number of credible fear cases received by USCIS has increased by more than 100 percent over FY 2022.
Second, over the past two years, the Department of Homeland Security has made hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). With respect to Venezuela alone, the Biden Administration granted TPS to 243,000 illegal aliens in 2021 and just this month made an additional 472,000 Venezuelans eligible to apply. All of these applications are sent to USCIS for processing.
Third, USCIS is responsible for adjudicating asylum applications from aliens who have either entered the U.S. through the (illegal) categorical parole programs created by President Biden or are shielded from deportation through TPS. Those seeking asylum can obtain a work permit in six months, and that work permit is good until the work authorization expires. Between FY 2021 and FY 2022, asylum applications filed with USCIS quadrupled, hitting a record number. Cuban and Venezuelan asylum applications made up half of USCIS’s workload in this area. So far in FY 2023, the number of asylum applications received by USCIS increased 80 percent over FY 2022.
Finally, all of these aliens who seek asylum, TPS, or parole all want work permits, or as USCIS calls them “Employment Authorization Documents” (EADs). The EAD is a main pull factor for people to enter at our southern border. On top of being able to work anywhere (not tied to one employer like legal immigrants), the aliens can obtain the EAD without paying a fee. The sheer number of illegal aliens applying for EADs has placed an unprecedented burden on USCIS. In this fiscal year alone (FY 2023 through August), USCIS has received over 3.7 million EAD applications, has approved 2.88 million, and has another 1.57 million pending.
Unfortunately, USCIS is proposing the wrong solution to deal with this workload crisis.
Granting work permits for five years at a time, especially to asylum applicants, will only encourage more illegal immigration and more asylum fraud. Why wouldn’t foreign nationals rush to the border if they know they will be released and an asylum application will get them a five-year work permit? Why wouldn’t every alien – even those seeking legal channels – simply file an application to gain an EAD? By the time the agency gets to adjudicating the asylum application, the alien will have received an EAD renewal, allowing them to work without consequences for at least 10 years, though likely longer. This is creating a long-term unskilled labor workforce that will supplant American workers and drive down wages for everyone.
President Biden’s open-border policies are breaking our immigration agencies, crushing employee morale, damaging our immigration system overall, and harming Americans. The real solution to this border crisis is changing the policies that encourage the flow of illegal migrants, not changing our rules and processes to accommodate them.