After weeks of disagreement, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have reached a consensus on how to address the migrant crisis. They believe that faster work permits from the federal government are the solution. However, their agreement does not inspire much confidence, as their track record on migrant issues is questionable. Adams recently attended a protest rally in Lower Manhattan, calling on national leaders to expedite work visas. The fact that he had to resort to protesting President Joe Biden reflects a lack of cooperation from Washington. Hochul, meanwhile, traveled to Washington to make the same request but was unable to secure a meeting with the president. Fortunately, it is probably for the best that Biden is not listening, as Adams and Hochul’s case for expedited work permits is weak. They argue that granting migrants work permits sooner will alleviate the burden of accommodating 60,000 newcomers in the city. However, there are flaws in this strategy. Firstly, the White House lacks control over the border situation, so creating a new incentive for migrants to come may only exacerbate the problem. Additionally, many migrants are already working in informal sectors, such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, despite not having official authorization. This demonstrates that they are already finding ways to participate in the city’s economy. Prior to the current crisis, the United States was home to millions of unauthorized immigrants, many of whom were working. These individuals were able to find housing and employment without the need for city shelters and converted hotels. The decision to open welcome centers and convert hotels into shelters has likely created an expectation among migrants that they will receive similar treatment. Another consideration is the treatment of existing migrants. If new migrants are granted work permits, what about those who have been working as dishwashers or housekeepers for years? Shouldn’t they also receive permits? Many migrants who came to the US years ago did so for job opportunities, just like recent arrivals. Granting work permits to new migrants would inevitably mean extending the same rights to existing migrants, regardless of skill or education level. This would include high-skilled, high-paid jobs, potentially complicating the visa application process for companies like Google or Microsoft. Ultimately, what Adams and Hochul are proposing is not a limited emergency measure but a comprehensive amnesty for all unauthorized workers, past, present, and future. Some argue that the country needs more workers due to labor shortages in various industries. However, in New York, there is already a mismatch between unemployed individuals and available jobs. The state has one of the highest ratios of job seekers to job openings in the country. The city’s private sector has also experienced a slow recovery from the pandemic, only recently returning to pre-pandemic job levels. Therefore, it is unclear if more low-wage workers would benefit the lowest-wage workers in the city. While there may be an intellectual case for fully open borders, it is essential for Adams and Hochul to acknowledge that their proposal aligns with this idea. Their motivation seems to stem from the complications associated with the city’s right-to-shelter policy rather than from a principled libertarian perspective.
Work permits won’t miraculously resolve the migrant crisis in NYC — instead, they will exacerbate it.
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