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Collins, Sinema Introduce Bill to Help Asylum Seekers Obtain Jobs More Quickly

The legislation, co-sponsored by Senator King, would make asylum seekers eligible to receive work authorizations starting 30 days after filing an asylum application

Washington, D.C.—In an effort to allow asylum seekers to find employment more quickly and become self-sufficient, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) introduced the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023.  Their legislation would shorten the waiting period before asylum seekers are allowed to receive work authorizations.  The bill was co-sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME).


“Over the span of the last two years, an historic number of asylum seekers have arrived in Portland and other communities after crossing our southern border.  These asylum seekers could give a much-needed boost to Maine businesses that are facing labor shortages, but the lengthy work authorization process prevents them from getting jobs,” said Senator Collins.  “Our commonsense legislation would 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.”


“Asylum seekers who enter the United States properly and are attending all their court dates are not allowed to work for six months, forcing them to rely on assistance from non-profits and local communities. I will continue to fight to fix our broken immigration laws and speed up the asylum process, but we must limit the price Arizona communities pay for the federal government’s failures. From farming to manufacturing, our economy depends on a robust workforce – and our bipartisan bill helps asylum seekers fill those necessary roles and limit their reliance on charity,” said Senator Sinema, Chair of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee.


“Asylum seekers have long made Maine communities stronger – but current federal law prevents these people from pursuing a job to support their families and contribute to the local economy by imposing a long wait period for work permits,” said Senator King. “This extended waiting period is holding back Maine’s full economic potential. It prevents asylum seekers from earning a paycheck, pointlessly shrinks the worker pool for businesses in need of employees, and increases the financial burden on local governments. Across the state, I keep seeing ‘Now Hiring’ signs on windows. With Maine facing serious workforce challenges, now is the time to shorten the waiting period for asylum seekers who just want to contribute, work hard, and put food on their table.”


Since asylum seekers cannot currently work to provide for themselves or their families for extended periods of time under existing law, cities and towns where asylum seekers live are under pressure to support them by using taxpayer funds and volunteer contributions. 


The Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act of 2023 would allow individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be eligible for work authorizations starting 30 days after they apply for asylum, provided their applications are not frivolous; they are not detained; and their identities have been verified, with their names run through the federal government’s terrorist watch lists.  By encouraging asylum seekers to enter the country through official ports of entry, this legislation would help create a more orderly asylum application process.


Click HERE to read the text of the bill.



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