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Migrants at US border

POLITICS: Biden breaks law to give millions of migrants work permits

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The Biden administration is doing an end-run around the nation’s immigration laws — by giving migrants work permits in record numbers.

Since President Biden took office, more than 3.3 million migrants have been given a Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly known as the federal work permit, even though many didn’t even legally have the right to be America.

And as of February of this year, pending EAD applications stood at an another 1.4 million.


Asylum is intended for those being persecuted abroad, not just people looking for better jobs. Luis Torres/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In many cases, migrants are given the right to work before they are even given asylum, a green card or other legal documentation that allows them to stay.

Not so long ago, the work permit rightly was considered an unwanted immigration “pull factor” and a key to managing immigration flows.

In 1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Service introduced a new rule: Asylum seekers had to wait 180 days before applying for work.

Asylum is meant for people fleeing legitimate claims of persecution, and aren’t just looking for better jobs.

Reviewing the previous year’s immigration statistics, then Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner announced that new rules removing this “primary incentive” resulted in asylum claims dropping from 122,589 in 1994 to 53,255 in 1995.

“With this attack on fraud, we have closed a back door to illegal immigration” she added.

But Biden has chipped away at that six-month waiting period rule.

In a blizzard of rules and over 530 immigration-related executive actions — already blowing past the previous record compiled by Trump over 4 years — the Biden administration has expanded admissions or created brand new admission pipelines under eight distinct and significant programs.

These include population transfers from Afghanistan and Ukraine, “family reunification” programs featuring direct flights to the U.S. for those who qualify from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras as well as a separate direct- to-U.S. flight program from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for those who may or may not have “family reunification” connections in the U.S.

For all others there is the CPBOne app, which allows foreign nationals to book an appointment online with U.S. border authorities. As of fall 2023, about 2.3 million had entered through these various programs, with only the most cursory of health and background vetting.

None of these programs confer lawful immigration status on the new arrivals, whose “twilight” status cannot lead to a green card or legal permanent residency. Most are entering under the wildly novel and likely illegal use of the administration’s “parole authority.”

To illustrate the impact of this policy, consider that between 2013 and 2020, the immigration authorities granted parole to a mere 479 individuals crossing the border illegally, reflecting the case-by-case, emergency nature of the administrative tool.

In contrast, under the Biden administration immigration authorities paroled in nearly 700,000 illegal border-crossers in 2022-23.

Most have immediate eligibility for a work permit and a Social Security card.

In some cases, those receiving parole apply for asylum later, after already getting a work permit — nullifying the 180-day wait rule.

In 2022, 1.279 million work permits were handed out. By 2023 that number had risen to 2.139 million and 2024 is on track to break 3.3 million.

Parolee is not a category that the government keeps the numbers by, but perhaps up to half of those work permits went to parolees.

Without congressional action, most of these parolees will remain stuck in a legal nether world, dependent upon executive actions to keep renewing their temporary right to be in the country.


migrnts at border
The number of work permits have been steadily increasing. Luis Torres/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

But no one is moving to deport them.

In fact, this “Green Card Lite” was the key element in the actions of California and Illinois to allow non-citizens to become police officers.

Republican states are on board too, with many granting professional and trade licenses to anyone with a work permit and the skills and qualifications necessary for the license.

The Biden administration is creating facts on the ground that it feels will force Congress to bend to its vision of the border.

The establishment’s acceptance of the temporary work permit as proof of lawful immigrant presence is a statement that it accepts Biden’s demographic and political revolution as a fait accompli.

Don Barnett is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.



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