In another bid to address New York City’s migrant crisis, Indian American legislator Jenifer Rajkumar has introduced a bill in the New York assembly to permit asylum seekers to work in the State.
Her bill will allow asylum seekers to be self-sufficient, lift the financial and logistical burden facing New York City, and bring much-needed talent to the workforce, she stated in a press release.
Rajkumar’s bill ensures New York State does everything in its power to help New York City manage one of the greatest humanitarian crises it has ever faced, it said.
READ: Jenifer Rajkumar moves to address New York’s migrant influx (September 7, 2023)
Over 110,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City eager to work, but cannot for at least six months under federal law, the release stated noting, “Unable to earn a living, asylum seekers turn to New York City for shelter, at a cost projected to be $12 billion by 2025.”
Rajkumar’s bill also addresses the labor shortage in New York State. There are 460,000 job openings in New York State, and over 120,000 fewer people in the labor force since 2019, according to the release.
Noting that businesses throughout New York State report difficulty finding employees and an eagerness to hire asylum seekers, the release stated Rajkumar’s bill will add all working age asylum seekers to the talent pool.
“In the absence of Federal action to issue work permits, the State must lead and issue the work permits on its own. It is time for the State to take ownership over the migrant crisis,” Rajkumar said.
“There are tens of thousands of asylum seekers asking to work, employers eager to hire them, and a wall of red tape coming between them. The time has come to tear down this wall of red tape and issue work permits to the asylum seekers,” she said.
“In so doing, we can end the migrant crisis,” Rajkumar said. “My bill is common sense: people legally allowed to live in our country should be able to work.”
Granting work authorization holds widespread support from people across the political spectrum, the release said citing a Siena poll that found that 59 percent of New Yorkers support expedited work authorization.
A bipartisan group in Congress has introduced a bill granting work authorization for asylum seekers after 30 days. Over 100 business leaders in New York released an open letter to President Joe Biden urging him to expedite work authorization.
There is historical and legal precedent for local action in the absence of Federal leadership, Rajkumar said, noting a panel of legal scholars convened by UCLA concluded that states can hire undocumented immigrants.
As Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom issued same-sex marriage licenses before its legalization at the Federal level, the release noted.
New York State also waived certification requirements for employing healthcare workers at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, it said. “Moreover, granting work authorization at the State level will drive the Federal government to do the same.”
Rajkumar, the release stated, has been leading a call for State and Federal leadership to address New York City’s migrant crisis. She unveiled a package of bills last week creating a Statewide Coordinator of Asylum Seeker Services to implement a Statewide response to the crisis, and prohibiting counties from issuing unconstitutional bans on admitting migrants.
Governor Kathy Hochul thereafter said she would consider calling a special session of the State Legislature.
Rajkumar also led a Citywide coalition of 54 elected officials from all five boroughs that called on Biden to declare a State of Emergency for New York State, expedite work authorization, increase funding for New York City, and implement a decompression strategy at the border.