U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is continuing his war on refugees and asylum seekers. On Tuesday he officially rescinded Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance from 2011 which said that refugees and asylum seekers coming to the United States have the right to work while in this country.
The 2011 guidance was in the form of a document issued by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. It said that the refugees and asylum seekers are “authorized to work indefinitely” and that they may receive Social Security cards “without employment restrictions.”
The Social Security numbers then could be used by employers to withhold appropriate income and payroll taxes so the workers would pay into Social Security and Medicare, even though as non-citizens they would not receive these benefits.
A Justice Department spokesperson said that a 2014 document, which set forth similar guidelines allowing refugees and asylum seekers being to work indefinitely, was also rescinded by Sessions.
The guidance, which was strongly supported by advocates for asylum seekers, stated that employers cannot require, as a condition of employment, that employees show them Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents if they have a valid Social Security card along with a state-issued photo I.D. card or drivers license.
Under the rescinded order, employers were also prohibited from refusing to hire refugees or asylum seekers if they didn’t have a Social Security number.
The DOJ also distributed a news release on Tuesday which said that it was rescinding 24 related guidance documents that were deemed to be “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.”
DOJ on Tuesday also rescinded a 2009 fair employment practices document which set forth guidance for employers in hiring. This document told employers to “avoid ‘citizens only’ hiring policies or requirements that applicants have a particular immigration status,” unless doing so was required by law. The document also told employers that they should check if individuals are eligible to work only after they had made the decision to hire them.
In the DOJ press release Attorney General Sessions wrote that:
“Americans deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them. When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President. In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website. That’s wrong, and it’s not good government.”
The hard-line move against asylum seekers has been issued at a time when the Trump administration is implementing a broader crack down on immigration. Administration officials have come under fire for their draconian zero tolerance policy for immigrants crossing the border, whereby all adults are arrested and charged with a crime, including those legally seeking asylum.
Last month Sessions also announced that the Trump administration would stop granting asylum to those people coming to the U.S. claiming to be victims of gang violence and domestic abuse, arguing that the asylum system was being “abused to the detriment of the rule of law.”
Most of these moves are intended to punish refugees and asylum seekers coming to the United States, as if doing so is a crime. What Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions don’t understand is that the vast majority of American voters do not support their misguided immigration policies. In November, after Democrats regain control of Congress, perhaps they will wake up and see that what they have done was not only indefensible but also politically harmful to themselves.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.