Biden Supporters Advocate for Migrant Work Permit Access

As over 100,000 migrants have arrived in New York City in the past year from Mexico, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have repeatedly requested President Joe Biden to allow them to work to alleviate the crisis. However, experts explain that expediting work permits is not an easy task, both legally and bureaucratically. It would require an act of Congress to shorten the mandatory six-month waiting period for asylum-seekers to apply for work permits. Although some Democratic leaders suggest that the Biden administration could take steps without congressional approval, it is unlikely to happen due to political and practical challenges. The Homeland Security Department has sent over 1 million text messages urging eligible individuals to apply for work permits, but the process remains delayed due to a backlog of applications. Frustrated by the situation, Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering whether the state could offer work permits, although this move would likely face legal challenges. In Chicago, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to grant parole to asylum-seekers as a way to bypass the wait for work permits. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and 19 Democratic state attorneys general have also advocated for work permits to reduce strain on social services. While the federal government has done little to assist cities, migrants without work permits are filling up homeless shelters. The housing and care for migrants could cost New York City $12 billion over three years. Despite concerns from advocates for migrants, Democrats have been pushed on the defensive by Republicans, who argue that the crisis will have a significant impact on the upcoming presidential elections. Experts suggest that the calls for expedited work authorizations are more about political optics than practical solutions. To address the issue, providing legal assistance to migrants to apply for asylum and work authorization is seen as a helpful step. Another option would be to expand Temporary Protected Status to citizens of more nations, although the White House may be hesitant as it could be seen as an incentive for more migrants to come to the US. Many migrants have turned to the underground economy to support themselves. Despite bureaucratic hurdles, some migrants are successful in obtaining work authorization and finding employment.

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