J traveled to the U.S. on the top of a freight train, fleeing the daily beatings and threats that he endured at the hands of his stepfather in Honduras. Just a few months after his 18th birthday, he found himself alone and without any support.

Federal law allowed J to apply for a work permit five months after Florence Project attorneys filed his application for asylum. In recognition of the desperate circumstances that many asylum seekers face, the law also requires that those work permit applications be processed quickly, within 30 days of receipt.

J’s approved work permit allowed him to enroll in a job training program through a community partner, where he was given vocational classes and a paid internship with a mechanic. It also allowed him to support himself and meet his basic needs without having to rely on anyone else. J was able to prepare and participate in his asylum interview without worrying about where he would sleep each night. When his asylum application was approved a few months later, he was able to move to Texas and take a job with an electrician, building on the skills he gained when he was in the training program.

On September 6, the administration announced plans to implement a new rule that would eliminate the fast processing requirement for asylum-based work permits. Advocates are concerned that, without the 30-day processing requirement, these applications will be delayed indefinitely. Without access to work permits, people in precarious situations like J’s would not have the ability to support themselves and their families, build their lives, and contribute to our local economies.

The right to seek safety and protection in the United States is unequivocal. By decreasing access to the tools that allow asylum applicants to meet their basic needs while waiting for decisions on their claims, the administration is undercutting that fundamental right.