Hochul, Adams call for expedited work authorization for Caribbean asylum seekers

Mayor Eric Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams.
Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor of the City of New York

With the increasing number of Caribbean and other asylum seekers arriving in New York City from southern border states on an almost daily basis, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have called for expedited work authorization from the Biden administration.

“They’re eager to work. They want to work. They came here in search of work and a new future, and they can become part of our economy and part of our communities, and people are ready to start training them right in facilities like we have here today,” said Hochul at a joint news conference on Monday with Adams about the asylum seekers, who comprise, among others, Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans.

“I took note of the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island as I came here this morning, a reminder of my teenage grandparents who fled great poverty in Ireland over a century ago. Their children, eight children packed into a tiny house, became business leaders, school superintendents, educators, and a granddaughter even became a governor. That’s what happens in one generation, one generation. People’s lives are transformed, they are changed. That is the story of New York. And let us have the power to give that same right, that same opportunity to people,” the governor added. “More than anything, we need changes to the work authorization policies that will let these individuals not have to wait months and possibly years for that legal status, but let’s get it in on an expedited basis.

“So, we think it’s possible. Right now, you have to wait 180 days after you file for your legal asylum status. That is the big unknown. People come here, they’re desperate, they’re trying to figure out how to just get on their feet, they don’t know the language and the burden of trying to properly fill out the asylum papers,” she continued. “And then if you’re missing something that someone’s actually going to find you to update the application, then at some point you’re going to go see a judge, we don’t have enough judges here in the State of New York, so start sending some judges up and the clerical staff. Give us the support we need so they can start properly filling out the asylum process.

“But, once that’s done under the current rules, they then have to wait 180 more days in limbo, not able to work legally in the State of New York. That’s not working. That’s not a solution. They’re ready to work. They’re willing to work. And they’re not able to work. So, we’re spending a lot of money. We’re dealing what we can, but we need this help from Washington,” Hochul urged.

Adams said 5,800 asylum seekers arrived in New York City from the southern border states last week alone.

“Those are factual numbers; they’re not made-up numbers,” he said. “And we are seeing the week before, 4,200. Just in one location alone, we had over 800, not only by buses, through the airports, through cars, through every mode of transportation, and our administration has accurately reported the information to the best of our ability to partner with the governor’s office to monitor and to address this crisis.

“If these asylum seekers cannot work, if they cannot work, it is going to be a major impediment and interruption in the pursuit of that dream,” the mayor warned. “So, we are calling on the White House, the United States Department of Homeland Security to ensure our newest Americans can work lawfully and build stable lives for themselves in our country.

“Our leaders in Washington must redesignate and extend Temporary Protective Status, also known as TPS. The federal government must also expand and extend access to humanitarian parole for asylum seekers already in the United States and processed at the border, as well as increase the number of United States citizens and immigration officers,” Adams continued. “These asylum seekers came here looking for the American dream, a chance to work and build successful lives. Let’s give them a fighting chance at making this dream a reality.”

Speaker of New York City Council Adrienne Adams also urged the federal government to “remove barriers to facilitate these opportunities that can also help crucial businesses close gaps in their workforce that have been undermining.

“The Council has repeatedly reiterated the need for expedited federal work authorization for asylum seekers to our federal partners since last fall, and once again urge immediate action to echo the governor and mayor’s calls,” she said.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, also welcomed Hochul and Adams’ calls.

“In recognizing that thousands of asylum seekers are currently in New York, they joined together to send a unified message in alignment with a chorus of advocates who have called on the Biden administration to provide a pathway for individuals here to get immigration relief and expedite the process for work permits to allow people to more quickly become a part of New York’s economy,” Awawdeh told Caribbean Life. “Both acknowledged the opportunity that asylum seekers offer to help the state fill its labor gaps, and the desire of asylum seekers to get to work and become self-reliant.

“We appreciate the governor and the mayor’s acknowledgement of the much-needed coordination with local municipalities to promote a welcoming culture for asylum seekers and reject the racism and xenophobia of the past,” he added. “We stand ready to work with all levels of government to ensure that our newest New Yorkers have the opportunity to get work, get on their feet, and live safe and happy lives in their new home.”

As immigration advocates intensify calls for solving the migration crisis in the US that involves Caribbean and other illegal migrants and refugees, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke reiterated her call for comprehensive immigration reform.

“As a daughter of immigrants, it is not lost upon me the multitude of hardships and difficulties families experience when they come to this nation in hopes of finding the American Dream. Unfortunately, our immigration system, which has not been updated in 30 years, is broken,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life on Friday.

“At the same time, extremist MAGA Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to break it even further with H.R. 2, their Child Deportation Act,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “This cruel legislation would force draconian restrictions and punishments on migrants and asylum seekers. and set America’s immigration priorities back years. Any bill that would allow vulnerable migrant children to be inhumanely detained by Border Patrol for up to a month is an unacceptable solution.”

As chair of the Immigration Task Force in the US House of Representative, Clarke said she has seen “the glaring inequities, blatant racism, vicious xenophobia, and civil rights violations immigrants face – particularly in immigrant communities of African descent.

“Immigrants of color experience immigration inequities more than any other community and immigrants of European origin,” she said. “But let me very clear, immigrants—regardless of status—contribute billions every year in taxes and to the American economy. That’s why we need a concrete vision, equipped with compassion and equity, for comprehensive immigration reform.”

On Thursday, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, the son of Dominican Republic immigrants, joined immigration advocates in urging elected officials, the real estate community and the Joe Biden administration to intensify efforts in solving the crisis.

“While Mayor Adams (New York City Mayor Eric Adams) is doing the wrong thing in rolling back Right-to-Shelter, we must be careful to call even more loudly on those who are doing nothing at all: the real estate community that sits on thousands of vacant apartments while families sleep in the streets; our neighbors in the suburbs who hide behind racist zoning policies that prevent new affordable housing from being built; and the Biden administration that refuses to step up with meaningful aid despite immigration being a federal issue,” Reynoso told Caribbean Life. 

“In the problems that got us here lie the solutions that can pull us out,” he added. “If the real estate community continues to resist voluntarily opening up vacant apartments for those experiencing homelessness, we need to explore legal action. If suburban leaders like Rockland County Executive Ed Day continue to call asylum-seekers rapist and criminals and threaten to ‘reach up and grab [Mayor Adams] by the throat for the people of Rockland County,’ we must name their racist hate and demand they do their part by offering shelter now and housing in the near future,” he added.

“And if the federal government continues to sit idly by, we will ensure every person in this city and state understands the blame for this situation lies with President Biden and his failure to lead on a comprehensive solution,” Reynoso continued. “Because when our neighbors – whether down the street, across the country, or over borders – need help, our community must and will show up. That’s what Brooklyn stands for, that’s what New York stands for, and that’s what we must demand this country to stand for.”

As the COVID-era policy, known as Title 42, ended mid-night Thursday, which allowed immigration agents to swiftly remove Caribbean and other illegal migrants from the US, Reynoso said “the imminent arrival of more people and families seeking asylum is no excuse to go back on our values here in New York City.

“Right-to-Shelter exists to defend the basic rights, dignity and safety of people who are without a stable place to settle,” he said. “And to roll it back – or even threaten as much – is not only cruel but a tactic of intimidation we will not accept.

“Rather than abandon the humanity this city stands for, we must meet this national crisis with a national solution – a solution that the real estate community, New York suburbs, and federal government can no longer decline to be a part of,” he added.

Since last spring, the mayor said over 60,800 asylum seekers have come through New York City and been offered a place to stay, adding that over 37,500 asylum seekers are currently in the city’s care.

At the same time, the mayor continues to call for the state and federal governments to provide support to manage this crisis, including financial assistance, a national decompression strategy, expedited work authorization, “real immigration reform,” among other things.