Governor Kathy Hochul joined Mayor Eric Adams and New York City’s business leaders on Monday to give President Biden a simple message: let tens of thousands of newly arrived asylum seekers in the city work.
The pair came together Monday morning at Union Square Events, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, to call on President Biden to expedite work authorizations for the over 41,000 migrants currently in the city’s homeless and emergency shelter systems.
“They’re eager to work. They want to work. They came here in search of work and a new future,” Hochul said. “And they can become part of our economy and part of our communities.”
They also made it clear that granting work authorizations to tens of thousands of migrants is an opportunity to simultaneously address the state’s labor shortage created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the same time we have a historic labor shortage, we also have this unprecedented influx of individuals arriving in New York,” she said. “We’re saying this is a great opportunity in the state of New York to solve two problems.”
Since the expiration of the pandemic-era rule that restricted immigration into the country, known as Title 42, on May 11, Adams has been sounding the alarm about the Big Apple reaching a new crisis point with the influx. He said the number of asylum seekers arriving each day has risen by the hundreds over the past couple of weeks and the city received over 5,800 people last week.
The dramatic increase has caused the city’s shelters to reach capacity, according to City Hall, and sent the administration scrambling to find more housing to accommodate the most recent surge. It has led them to house some migrants in school gyms, bus a small group to upstate towns and even consider using a Rikers Island facility as a shelter.
Adams stressed that in most conversations he’s had with migrants in the city’s care, they’ve voiced their desire to work legally and if they’re not able to do it, it will be a “major impediment and disruption” in their pursuit of the American Dream.
“When I speak with my asylum seekers … they say clearly, ‘We don’t want your free room and board and food and clothing. We want to work. We want to have an opportunity to provide for ourselves,’” Adams said. “And right now we are denying that opportunity by refusing to let them work legally.”
The delay in granting legal work permits to migrants, Adams said, has led many of the newcomers to pick up jobs in an “underground market,” where they’re subject to exploitation and not able to pay into the city’s tax system.
The event marked the first time Hochul has publicly joined Adams to demand action from Washington to ease the influx’s strain on the city’s resources. Adams has for months called on Biden to aid the five boroughs by fast-tracking clearance for recent arrivals to work legally, providing financial assistance and developing a strategy to spread migrants more evenly across the country.
The mayor repeated a plea he made last month for the White House to take three steps he said would speed up getting more asylum seekers into the workforce without having to go through House Republicans, who are unlikely to aid the city in helping migrants work. He also called Biden out at that same event last month, saying the president has “failed New York City on this issue” — rhetoric that appears to have soured his relationship with the White House.
“We can do this by direct action by the executive branch of the federal government,” Adams said. “Without legislation, we can get this done. Republicans, as we know, have blocked all attempts at fixing our broken immigration system, potentially causing chaos and dysfunction.”
The three steps Adams urged Biden to take include: redesignating and extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to include those from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador; expanding and extending humanitarian parole for migrants who are already in the country or have been processed at the border; and increase the number of U.S. immigration officers who process TPS applications.
If more migrants are allowed to work, the governor said there are several industries in the state with thousands of job openings they could help fill. There are 5,000 farm jobs, 5,000 food service jobs and 4,000 custodial jobs that are all waiting to be filled, she said.
“The cows don’t wait to be milked, the plants need to be maintained and harvested in a few months,” Hochul said. “I’m a former waitress, I made pizzas, chicken wings, waited tables, cleaned floors, did pots and pans. [It] doesn’t take a lot of skill, I was 15-years-old. Those jobs are available.”
The mayor and governor were accompanied by business leaders — mostly from the hospitality industry — like Union Square Hospitality Group founder Danny Meyer, New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie and Partnership for New York City head Kathryn Wylde.
Meyer said the city’s hospitality industry stands ready to offer job training to migrants seeking to work and to hire them once their five-to-six-week training is complete, as soon as they’re granting working permits.
“If we had a situation where we learned that we had 5,000 people who came in yesterday who wanted to work, we would say ‘hallelujah,’” Meyer said. “Sign us up. We will put recruiting tables out immediately … I will tell you right now that this industry wants to provide a solution to this crisis. And when we do provide that solution, it’s going to help the economy and it’s going to be the right thing to do.”