ASAP: the name sort of says it all. It fact I thought it was just a descriptor when I first heard about it. In reality it’s an acronym for the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. The reason it seemed like a descriptor is that asylum applications in the United States are almost at a standstill for many folks. The back log has been growing for many years and was made all but permanent during the last presidential administration as the agency was starved of resources and the asylum office adopted a last in first out policy with regard to processing. This approach was meant to deny as many cases as possible before applicants qualified for a work permit only available after their application was pending for 180 days. Another change that the last administration made was to require a one year wait for a work permit doubling the previous time frame making it easier to cut off the possibility of conferring a compassionate benefit on those awaiting a decision on their request for protection in the United States. A cynical ploy by a cruel man and his associates. The final blow was a more passive aggressive plan. Work permits typically had been granted or processed within a couple of months of filing a request. Now work asylum based work permits take well over a year to process. As a result, now an asylum applicant is forced to wait over two (2) years after asking for protection before he or she is permitted to work legally in the United States. This again is a wrong headed approach to a complex problem that actually backfires and forces frightened and oppressed migrants to work illegally in the United States.
This is where ASAP comes in. “In 2020, ASAP members were concerned about new rules proposed by the Trump Administration that would severely limit asylum seekers’ ability to obtain work permits. The Trump rules would have allowed the government to take as long as it wanted (even years) to process asylum seekers’ work permit applications, force asylum seekers to wait more than twice as long to be eligible to apply for work permits, add new biometrics requirements and fees, bar many groups of asylum seekers from receiving work permits altogether, and impose other harmful changes. ASAP members chose to file a lawsuit to block the Trump rules from going into effect: CASA v. Mayorkas (originally called CASA v. Wolf).
On September 11, 2020, the court issued an order called a preliminary injunction. The court’s order blocked important parts of the Trump rules for two reasons. First, the court held that Chad Wolf was likely serving unlawfully as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, meaning that he did not have the power to issue the rules. Second, the court held that the government had likely failed to weigh the harm of the rules, consider less harmful alternatives to the rules, or give the public a full opportunity to comment on the rules.
Under the court’s order, ASAP members and members of CASA de Maryland can generally apply for work permits 150 days after applying for asylum, do not have to pay the new $85 biometrics fee, and are entitled to have the government process their work permit applications within 30 days, among other benefits. Click these links to learn about work permit rules for ASAP members, work permit rules for non-members, how to become an ASAP member, and how to apply for a work permit as an ASAP member.
ASAP and ASAP members, alongside co-plaintiffs CASA de Maryland, Centro Legal de la Raza, Oasis Legal Services, and Pangea Legal Services, have asked the court to vacate the Trump rules in their entirety, and to expand the court’s protections for all asylum seekers . The government continues to defend the Trump rules, including by having DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ratify the Timeline Repeal Rule that would eliminate 30-day processing time for initial work permit applications. Final written arguments on these issues were submitted to the court on July 27. We await the court’s response, which could include the scheduling of oral argument on the motions for summary judgment or on our pending motion to modify the preliminary injunction.”
The ASAP allows folks to become a member and receive the benefits of faster processing and often reduced fees. “ASAP welcomes new members who: (1) have sought or are seeking asylum in the United States, (2) are 14 years or older, and (3) believe in ASAP’s mission, as stated above. If you meet these criteria, please fill out our membership application. ASAP’s team will then screen your application, and we will text you to let you know whether you have been approved for membership.”
This a ray of light in a bleak immigration landscape and I encourage all who qualify to take advantage of the benefits therein.