+60 National and Local Organizations Launch Campaign to #LetAsylumSeekers Work Faster

WASHINGTON—Today, more then 60 national and local organizations launched a new campaign to #LetAsylumSeekersWork faster. The effort comes at a time of historic national labor shortages. People seeking asylum in the United States are eager to support themselves and join the labor force yet are currently required to wait up to six months or more to access work permits. Groups behind the effort are calling for urgent congressional action to reduce the amount of time asylum seekers must wait before being eligible to apply for work permits. 

Specifically, this campaign is encouraging support for the bi-partisan House Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, which would reduce wait times, allowing people who have pending asylum applications in the United States to access work permits after 30 days, as opposed to the current statutory 180-day period.

Business leaders, faith leaders, state and local leaders, members of Congress, and people seeking safety themselves have come together with a single message: let asylum seekers work. Doing so would be a win for people seeking asylum, a win for local communities, and a win for businesses and the economy. 

“Asylum seekers shouldn’t have to wait six months before being eligible for a work permit,” said Romaire Desir, an asylum seeker from Haiti and member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). “I struggled before I could get my work permit, but now, I can provide for my family and build a stable life while I wait for my asylum interview. Asylum seekers should be able to obtain work permits faster so that we can enter the legal workforce and help both ourselves and the communities where we live.”

“Asylum seekers come here fleeing persecution, torture, and violence,” said Congresswoman Maria Salazar (R-Florida). “Our asylum system is broken and in desperate need of reform, and asylum seekers deserve a chance to support themselves and their families through meaningful work. I am proud to support the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act to help expedite work authorization for asylum seekers in the United States.”

“Asylum seekers are lawfully protected to be here; they deserve the right to be self-sufficient and become part of their new communities. At the same time, Maine is enduring unprecedented staffing shortages, with just 54 workers available for every 100 open jobs,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). “With my bipartisan Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act, asylum seekers will no longer be subject to a lengthy waiting period before applying for work authorization and would be eligible to receive a work permit just 30 days after applying for asylum. My bill corrects the counterintuitive work authorization process with a commonsense solution, giving asylum seekers an opportunity to live a safe, fulfilling life while giving our economy the boost it so desperately needs. It’s clear there is widespread support among business, state, and local leaders in Maine and across the country to enact this commonsense change, and I am grateful for the grassroots support of the ‘Let Asylum Seekers Work’ campaign.”

“Asylum seekers come to our country seeking protection and safety, and also to put their creativity and talents at the service of our communities,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz from El Paso. “Yet lengthy bureaucratic delays keep them from contributing and providing for themselves and their families. I welcome efforts from Congress and the administration to streamline the ability to work, giving us the ability, as Pope Francis calls us, to welcome, protect, promote and integrate our new neighbors.”

“Authorizing asylum seekers to work sooner is key to filling gaps in worker shortages that businesses across Maine have been experiencing for decades – and more acutely since the pandemic,” said Dana Connors, former President, Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Holding back people who are willing, able and eager to contribute to our economy and our communities is holding back our state.” 

“In the Cedar Rapids metro area, we see first-hand the incredible contributions that people seeking safety make, and are also hearing from our employers that they are facing unprecedented challenges filling needed jobs,” said Iowa State Senator Molly Donahue. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be tapping into this community that wants to work, and has so much to offer. This bi-partisan bill is a concrete way to get people into jobs faster and is a win-win for all—that would help close the Governor’s work crisis gap. As the ranking member in the Iowa State Senate for the Workforce Labor Committee, I feel it is time for our U.S. Senators and the Congress to pass the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act.”

Organizations behind the effort include: 

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • The Advocates for Human Rights
  • American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
  • American Immigration Council (AIC)
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
  • Associated General Contractors-Maine
  • Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)
  • Border Butterflies Project
  • The Center for Victims of Torture
  • Church World Service (CWS)
  • Cities for Action
  • Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)
  • Critical Labor Coalition
  • Fellowship Southwest
  • Franciscan Network for Migrants–USA
  • Global Refuge
  • HIAS
  • Home is Here NOLA
  • Hope Border Institute | Instituto Fronterizo Esperanza
  • Hospitality Maine
  • Human Rights First
  • Immigrant ARC
  • Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
  • Immigration Equality
  • Interfaith Welcome Coalition – San Antonio
  • International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology
  • Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
  • Las Americas
  • Louisiana Organization of Refugees and Immigrants (LORI)
  • Luke’s Lobster
  • Maine Center for Economic Policy
  • Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
  • National Immigration Forum
  • National Partnership for New Americans
  • National Retail Federation
  • New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees
  • New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta
  • Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Quixote Center
  • Refugee Advocacy Lab
  • Refugee Congress
  • Refugee Council USA
  • Refugees International
  • Santa Cruz Welcoming Network
  • Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Advocacy Center
  • South Bronx Mutual Aid
  • Trellus
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
  • Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ)
  • Upwardly Global
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Uyghur Union
  • We Are All America
  • Welcoming America
  • Welcoming New Hampshire
  • Women’s Refugee Commission
  • World Education Services (WES)


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International’s Media and Communications Manager Etant Dupain at edupain@refugeesinternational.org.  

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