Democrat Attorneys General Demand Fast-Track Work Permits for Illegals and Migrants

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2019 file photo California Attorney General Xavier Becerra discusse
Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

Twenty-one top Democrat state officials are trying to block a White House reform that would protect Americans’ jobs and wages from hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants and economic migrants who try to get U.S. jobs.

“That’s bad for immigrants,” said a tweet from New Jersey’s Democrat attorney general, Gurbir Grewal. Agency officials “want to delay & deny work permits for asylum seekers.”

“This proposal is cruel and legally questionable at best,” said California’s Democrat attorney general, Xavier Becerra. Migrants “who do not enter the country through a port of entry or have resided in the United States for more than a year would now be summarily denied access to a work permit,” he said.

The draft proposal would end the long-standing agency practice of quickly giving one-year work permits to migrants who ask for asylum, and also illegal immigrants who ask for green cards. For example, it would withhold work permits from Central American asylum seekers for more than a year after they present themselves at a U.S. border post, and it would end the policy of providing temporary work permits to long-term illegals. The rule would also deny work permits to migrants who apply for asylum after sneaking into the United States.

The lax work permit policies were pushed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The policies have provided millions of work permits to migrants. That huge supply of imported labor boosts investors and companies by undercutting blue-collar and white-collar wages, and it encourages more illegal migration.

The scale of this work permit economy is sketched by the Department of Homeland Security. A January 14 chart shows that at least 1,726,688 got work permits in 2019, alongside the roughly four million Americans who turned 18 during the year.

The federal government “estimates that 305,000 asylum seekers will be affected by the Proposed Rule in the first year alone, with just under 300,000 affected in subsequent years,” according to the complaint by the 21 attorneys general.

“This important new regulatory initiative has had far less media coverage than it merits,” said Dale Wilcox, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI).

“The new regulation is complex but cohesive in its three-part strategy to deter aliens from filing fraudulent or otherwise defective asylum claims,” said a January 14 statement from the IRLI:

Aliens who illegally cross the border instead of applying for asylum at a port of entry will be ineligible to work until they are actually granted asylum. All applicants must appear at USCIS offices to provide fingerprints, photos, and other biodata before becoming eligible to apply for work permission. IRLI agrees with the government that this will greatly improve screening for ineligible criminal aliens, a major problem in this area.

Longstanding federal statutes bar asylum applications filed more than a year after arrival, and sanction applications that are “frivolous.” The new reforms restrict or eliminate more than a dozen loopholes in the regulations implementing these statutes. These loopholes have been used by immigration lawyers and anti-borders activists to make incomplete and often dishonest applications, many thousands of which are received eight or even ten years after the aliens first illegally crossed our borders.

“The [courtroom] backlogs in adjudicating all these [asylum] claims result in almost automatic employment authorization, which depresses the wages of American workers and is a magnet for further illegal entry,” said the IRLI statement. “We applaud the administration for taking this important step to protect American workers and gain control of the border.”

The Democrat attorneys general submitted their objections during the comment period on draft regulations.

The regulation contradicts the pro-migration “Nation of Immigrants” narrative, say the Democrats:

We, the undersigned Attorneys General of New Jersey, California, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (“The States”), write …

An animating value of the United States is embodied in the now-famous lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The United States has committed itself to providing asylum seekers a haven from persecution, regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Indeed, in establishing the framework for today’s asylum system in the Refugee Act of 1980, Congress made clear it was codifying “one of the oldest themes in America’s history—welcoming homeless refugees to our shores.”

The regulation will deter further migration into U.S. jobs, disadvantaging employers and state governments, the Democrats complain:

By barring many applicants from EADs completely and indefinitely delaying others’ EADs, the Proposed Rule imposes economic hurdles that will harm both asylum seekers and States and serve as a deterrent to seeking asylum in the first instance. Limiting EAD access will push asylum seekers into the underground economy, impede their ability to take care of themselves and their families, and harm their health and wellbeing. The States, too, will feel these consequences. The States, for their part, welcome thousands of asylum seekers each year who contribute greatly to their communities and economies.1 The Proposed Rule will lower tax and spending revenue in the States and harm businesses within the States that will have to find replacements and alternative labor. It will also increase reliance on state-funded programs, and hinder the States’ ability to enforce their own labor and civil rights laws.

The Proposed Rule will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for many to legally work, costing the States millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and diminished economic growth. Second, the resulting delays and denials of work authorization will lead to increased healthcare costs shouldered by the States. Third, the Proposed Rule will burden the States’ other social service providers, including state funded non-profit service providers. Fourth, and finally, the Proposed Rule will make it more difficult for the States to enforce their own laws, particularly those designed to protect workers from unfair and abusive conditions of employment.

Although unauthorized workers pay taxes, tax revenue increases when immigrants can legally work, and the States could stand to lose substantial revenue if the Proposed Rule is implemented. Currently, undocumented immigrants residing in the States pay approximately $7.4 billion in state and local taxes annually. This would increase by approximately $1.4 billion if undocumented immigrants were given legal status.

The Democrats complain the regulation will make it difficult for migrants to hire the lawyers needed to win asylum:

Under the Department’s restrictive approach to work authorization, fewer asylum seekers will have the resources to hire legal counsel to navigate them through the complex and evolving immigration bureaucracy.4 That matters a great deal. In 2017, 90 percent of those without legal representation were denied asylum in immigration court while only 54 percent of those with legal representation were denied.

The regulation will impact many migrants, the state attorneys general write:

USCIS asylum offices within the States are considering 40 percent of the 327,984 pending affirmative asylum applications. Based on calculations involving the most recent available data, these offices receive an average of approximately 45,615 asylum applications per year. The States also hosted over 10,000 or 80 percent of the 13,248 total immigration court grants of asylum in 2018.

The rule will hurt the businesses that earn revenues from illegal migrants, they say:

The Proposed Rule will also significantly reduce the spending power of asylum seekers, thereby weakening the economies of the States. Curtailing work authorization for asylum seekers or cutting others off from EADs prematurely will result in lost wages and money that does not flow to the States’ businesses and economies. The New American Economy estimates that immigrants exercise billions in spending power each year, totaling over $724.8 billion in the States. Indeed, the Department itself recognizes that up to $4.4 billion could be lost in wages.

Businesses will have to hire Americans instead of migrants and illegals, the attorneys general complain:

By the Department’s own admission, businesses will not only lose potential labor, but also will likely have to find replacement labor because the Proposed Rule cuts short asylum seekers’ ability to continue working, even if their asylum cases are ongoing in federal court. Although the Department asserts that businesses potentially could find other labor to substitute for the jobs that asylum applicants currently hold, its own analysis belies that premise. The Department acknowledges that with the unemployment rate at a “50-year low [. . .] it could be possible that employers may face difficulties finding reasonable labor substitutes.”

Migrants — including illegals — provide a large part of the labor force hired by employers in many states, they say:

While the Department makes no inquiry into the “wages, occupations, industries, or businesses that may employ such workers,” there is substantial data that several sectors of the States’ economies disproportionately employ immigrants and are likely to face costs while trying to find labor substitutes. In New Jersey, for example, service providers report that many asylum seekers are employed as home health aides, engineers, dental assistants, construction workers, and in farming and agriculture. Immigrants fill over two-thirds of the jobs in California’s agricultural and related sectors, almost half of those in manufacturing, 43 percent of construction jobs, and 41 percent of those in computer and sciences. Likewise, approximately 43 percent of employed undocumented workers in Illinois are employed in the food services and manufacturing industries. In New York, immigrants account for 71.4 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs; 68.3 percent of workers in private households, including maids, housekeepers, and nannies; 57.9 percent of those working as chefs and head cooks; 57.3 percent of nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides; and 44.7 percent of the state’s workers in traveler accommodation.


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