Lawmakers Push To Expedite Migrant Work Permits

As Congress negotiators are starting to cobble together a deal on border security, providing expedited work permits to migrants who are seeking asylum is apparently on the table.

Politico issued a report this week that cited five people who were familiar with the ongoing discussions.

State and local officials have long said that they’re in favor of expansions to the work permit program being added to negotiations that seek to address the worsening migrant crisis. This crisis is now affecting the budgets of cities across the country.

In November, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia had suggested that work visas be part of the negotiations, as they could help fill jobs that are open with asylum seekers who, at first, are banned from working on a legal basis when they arrive in America.

Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper agreed, saying on Wednesday:

“There’s a real issue with the cities around America that they’re receiving bus loads and bus loads of people seeking asylum. They come to the cities and can’t work. And most of these cities have jobs that need to be filled.

“I know the mayors have talked about it. One way to help ease that is to allow them (migrants) to work, at the same time protecting American jobs.”

Federal law says that all migrants must wait until 150 days following their asylum application before they can then seek to get a work permit. That application then takes 30 days for approval, though the process many times takes a lot longer than that.

According to the Politico report, negotiators in the Senate have said that any policy changes they’re discussing wouldn’t apply to the illegal immigrants who are waiting for their cases for asylum to be heard in America. That means these hundreds of thousands of people would not be able to access expedited work permits, even if that were to be something included as part of a new border security law.

In addition, the expedited work permit plan would have a limited scope, as changes would have to be done in tandem with other initiatives, such as raising the standards for people who are seeking asylum in the U.S.

The sources told Politico that the details are still murky at this point, since it’s an active negotiation with ideas simply being thrown around.

Even though there are scant details about the program, the sources do say that it seems to be a sign that progress is being made in those talks.

The big challenge, though, will be how the whole Republican caucus will view some of the concessions that GOP negotiators seem to be open to making in small groups. It’s expected that House Republicans would ultimately be opposed to any border deal that includes even small victories for Democrats.

For their part, Republicans are pushing hard for the final deal to include some border security metrics.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the minority whip, said:

“They need to address parole. And I do think there are some enforcement mechanisms and metrics that you can incorporate.”