WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced legislation Friday to shorten the waiting period before asylum seekers are allowed to file for work authorizations.
“The change proposed by our bill will lessen the burden on the budgets of communities hosting asylum seekers while allowing these individuals and their families to support themselves as they want to do, bringing needed skills to the cities and towns in which they settle,” Sen. Collins said. “I encourage my colleagues to support this commonsense legislation to permit these individuals to work and contribute to the local economy while their asylum claims are being adjudicated.”
The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2019 would allow asylum seekers to file for work authorizations 30 days after applying for asylum.
Asylum seekers cannot currently work to provide for themselves or their families for six months according to existing law. Because of this, cities and towns where asylum seekers live are under pressure to support them, often by using local general assistance from taxpayers and volunteer contributions.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree first introduced the bill in the summer of 2015. Senator King became the Senate sponsor of her legislation that October. This Congress, Pingree re-introduced this bill on May 16th. It currently has 13 cosponsors including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“Maine has a workforce shortage and asylum seekers have the skills and desire to work," Pingree said. That’s why I introduced legislation in the 114th and 116th Congresses to make it easier for asylum seekers to add to our economy. Given that just last month, the Trump administration announced plans to more than double — from 150 days to 365 days – the waiting period to apply for work authorization, it’s even more urgent that Congress act to modify an outdated law that delays asylum seekers from becoming self-sufficient. It’s clear that this Administration cares more about punishing people who came to our nation seeking safety than strengthening our economy.”