Court Ruling Will Help Maine’s Asylum Seekers and Economy

Maine has long welcomed asylum seekers, and they are critical members of  our labor force as Maine’s native born working age population shrinks.  Work permission is essential for asylum seekers’ survival, since the immigration process can take years.   Asylum seekers in Maine routinely wait four years for their asylum application interviews, and in many cases obtaining a final decision can take several  years more.

Federal law requires asylum seekers to wait 150 days after filing their asylum applications before they are allowed to request their work permits.  By law, the government must then process their work permit applications within 30 days, so that 180 days after requesting asylum, they will have their work authorization in hand.

In practice, that simply never happens.   Asylum seekers routinely wait two, three and four months after filing their work permit applications before they finally receive their work permits.   This is not only demoralizing and economically debilitating for them, but is also a complete waste of human capital when Maine needs every worker it can get.

On July 26, 2018, in Rosario vs. USCIS, a nationwide class action lawsuit, a federal court  ordered the government to comply with the law and adjudicate all asylum seekers’ work permit applications within 30 days.

This will allow Maine’s asylum seekers to get to work months sooner than they have been, benefiting them and all of Maine.


Reports: Immigrants Essential for Economy in Maine and U.S.

MeBIC partner, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, together with the Maine Development Foundation and Educate Maine have released the 2018 Making Maine Work report. The report lays out a blueprint of policy recommendations for the state’s next Governor and Legislature in order to keep Maine’s economy growing.

Unsurprisingly, the first goal cited in the report addresses Maine’s shrinking workforce.   With the increasing percentage of Mainers reaching retirement age and the state’s low birthrates, ensuring that Maine is able to attract, welcome, and integrate immigrants is identified as a top priority (see Goal A.4) to help counteract Maine’s looming labor crisis.

The report’s findings echo national data about the U.S.’s aging workforce and declining birthrates, as MeBIC has noted previously.  Recent writings continue to point out the need for immigrants nationwide if the nation’s economy is not doomed to shrink, such as this June 2018 report from the National Immigration Forum and this recent opinion piece in Barron’s.

MeBIC will continue to work with our partners to help ensure that Maine and the U.S. prioritize opening channels and not raising barriers to the immigrants we need for thriving communities and a vibrant economy.


Government Fails to Meet Deadline to Reunite Youngest Children with their Parents

The Federal government was given until July 10, 2018 to reunite the children under age five in its custody that it had taken away from their parents who sought asylum at our southern border.   At a status conference in the Federal Court on July 10th, the Government made clear it had fallen far short of that mandate.

Of the 102 children under age five in its custody that the government had identified, only four had been reunited with their parents since the Court ordered reunification two weeks previously.   The government noted that its failure to comply fully was due in part to having already deported some of these children’s parents (without reuniting them first), and in part to applying standards used in cases of minors who arrive unaccompanied by any adult.

On July 11th, the Court ordered the government to cease applying excessive standards inappropriate to children that the government itself rendered unaccompanied by taking them from their parents against the parents’ will (and sometimes without their knowledge while the parents were in court).  The Court ordered the government to reunite 59 of these young children with their parents by the end of the day.

The government must provide an update to the Court on July 12th.


Economic History Lessons We Should Heed?

Two recent columns in Bloomberg you may have missed.

An op-ed  looks back at the Great Recession, and at economists’ analyses regarding whether legal changes that caused sharp drops in immigration may have played a part, by shrinking both the labor supply and also consumer demand and demand for housing.

A separate column points out that labor shortages in the U.S. are compelling employers to raise wages and hire populations they might have overlooked in the past.  He notes that “demand for workers simply outstrips what the U.S. population can meet”, and that immigration must be part of the solution.