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New US rules make it harder for asylum seekers to work | USA News



Broad regulatory changes go into effect on Tuesday, restricting and delaying some asylum seekers from legally working in the US in what refugee advocates have said is an attempt to make the lives of persecuted people more difficult, in keeping with the anti-immigrant strategy of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

A series of broad rules issued by the US government that began taking effect on August 21 and finished Tuesday change procedures on obtaining “employment authorization documents” (EAD) necessary for legal employment in the US “are irrational”, Mariko Hirose, a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), told Al Jazeera. 

The new rules, which allow greater discretionary power to decline work authorisation to asylum seekers while placing them in a tough financial situation, “serve no purpose other than to make things more difficult for people who leave their countries under circumstances of severe persecution”, Hirose continued. 

Hirose is one of IRAP’s lawyers working on a lawsuit (PDF) joined by four other refugee advocate groups challenging the rule. 

Financial concerns

“EADs are such an important part of making sure asylum seekers can provide for themselves and their families. There’s no federal assistance, and asylum seekers are fleeing persecution from their countries, so they aren’t coming here with money to support themselves”, Hirose said.

Previously, asylum seekers could receive work authorisation within 180 days of applying for asylum. Under the new rules, asylum seekers must wait 365 calendar days before they apply and there is no timeframe for a court to reach a decision on their EAD.

Danilo Zak, a policy and advocacy associate with the National Immigration Forum, told Al Jazeera “it’s a really long time if you’re an asylum seeker, trying hire a lawyer” or “provide for children”.

The new rules also mean that if an applicant causes a delay in the application process, including a change of address or applying to submit further evidence to support the claim, the employment authorisation will be denied.

The rules also make issuing EADs “discretionary rather than mandatory”, Zak continued. That means asylum seekers can do everything correctly, but still not receive work authorisation.

A draft of the rules was made public for a comment period in November, Zak said.

When respondents raised concerns about the financial restraints the rules would cause, including homelessness, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) replied, “Asylum seekers who are concerned about homelessness … should become familiar with the homelessness resources provided by the state where they intend to reside.”

Legal questions

The lawsuit challenging the new rules alleges they disregard established legal precedents.

For example, the rules make it possible for EADs not to be issued to those who will be successful in their asylum claims, such as those who entered the US between ports of entry where authorities can check documents, the lawyer, Hirose explained.

“It’s perfectly legal for asylum seekers to seek asylum, regardless of how they crossed into the US”, Hirose said.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf has presided during a time when the agency is making it more difficult for asylum seekers to get work authorisation [Toni Sandys/The Washington Post via AP/ Pool]

The lawsuit also claims the head of DHS, Acting Director Chad Wolf, does not have the legal authority to issue the rules, as he has not been confirmed by Senate.

Wolf was made acting director in November 2019. DHS “violated the laws here by failing to have anyone who’s Senate-confirmed for that position for a historically long period”, Hirose claimed. 

Trump nominated Wolf for the position the same day the changes took effect.

There is a court hearing scheduled for next week. Hirose hopes “to get a decision from the court as soon as possible that will hopefully vacate these rules”, she concluded.

Zak, for his part, believes the US should recognise these people have legitimate reasons to fear returning home, as well as the “human dignity” of asylum seekers.

As it stands now, “these rules work to strip away the human dignity of those seeking asylum at the border,” Zak concluded. 

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.


Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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