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White House to help migrants get work permits in New York City

The influx of migrants to the city has officials at loggerheads with Washington over assistance and funding
US President Joe Biden and New York Governor Kathy Hochul in Yonkers, New York, on 6 November 2022 (AFP)

The White House has announced that in the upcoming weeks it will be assisting migrants, who are eligible for employment, to apply for work permits.

The announcement came on a Zoom conference on Tuesday between White House officials and New York City reporters. New York has been facing what many are calling a migrant crisis. 

From the spring of 2022 onwards, New York has witnessed the arrival of over 90,000 migrants and individuals seeking asylum. On any given night, around 57,000 people receive assistance from the city. New York City Mayor Eric Adams says that the city is operating at its limit.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, along with Mayor Adams and other officials, have been calling on Biden and congressional leaders to facilitate legal employment for some of the 60,000 migrants under the city's care.

“President Biden, Vice President Harris and all of us share the frustration that elected officials, business leaders and New Yorkers all have about the process,” a senior White House official said. 

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“We want to get people who are eligible to work to work as soon as possible.”

At the virtual press conference, officials from the Biden administration expressed their intention to concentrate on the “critical mass” of migrants eligible for work permits, noting that only a small portion have actually applied, Politico reported

“The home run in this process would be comprehensive immigration reform,” the senior administration official said.

Until then, “There’s a critical mass that we are confident are eligible to apply for work authorisation immediately.”

In the press conference, White House officials outlined a public awareness campaign that intends to urge migrants to apply for asylum as well as work permits.

The officials also said they were about to finalise a deal to house migrants in shelters in Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.

Officials from the Biden administration also announced the deployment of 50 federal employees to the city to inform migrants about the services they can access. 

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A senior aide from the White House is set to meet with New York's business leaders this Thursday. The agenda will revolve around job opportunities, especially given the administration's anticipation that many migrants will soon qualify for employment.

Regarding work permits, officials mentioned that the White House's continuous efforts are aimed at the vast numbers of migrants admitted through special initiatives.

While these individuals can legally work, only a fraction have sought work permits, as stated by officials.

According to federal law, most migrants must wait six months after they file for asylum before they can apply for a work permit. But Adams has criticised this waiting period, saying it prevents migrants from achieving financial independence.

To date, the federal government has allocated $140m to New York City for shelter.

White House officials said they requested additional funding from Congress, but the chances of the city receiving significant sums of additional money are slim because of a Republican-controlled House.

While the city claims the number of migrants to be over 100,000, White House officials said they did not know the number.

"We have spent more than $2bn to date and expect to spend $5bn this fiscal year alone without substantial aid from our state and federal partners," Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for the mayor told Gothamist

"While we are exceptionally proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, we cannot continue to do this alone and without the federal government taking a leading role."

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