President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the...

President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Wednesday after returning from a trip to New York for the 78th United Nations General Assembly. Credit: AP / Stephanie Scarbrough

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration met a key demand of New York Democratic lawmakers, announcing expansion of a program that grants Venezuelan migrants already living in the United States temporary protected status to live and work in the country legally.

Some 472,000 Venezuelan migrants in the U.S. will be eligible for the so-called TPS designation, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the move would affect about 15,000 of the 60,000 migrants in the city's shelter system.

The expansion follows months of lobbying by New York lawmakers such as Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul and the city's Democratic congressional delegation. They argued the temporary protected status designation will allow migrants to work legally and pay for their own housing, helping ease the strain on city shelters.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said in a joint statement the expanded status will allow eligible Venezuelans to "fill needed jobs and support their families while awaiting an asylum determination."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The Biden Administration is expanding a program that grants Venezuelan migrants already living in the United States temporary status to live and work in the country legally.
  • Some 472,000 Venezuelan migrants will be eligible, federal officials said. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the move would affect 15,000 of the 60,000 migrants in the city's shelter system.
  • Democratic officials such as Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have said the temporary designation will allow migrants to work and pay for their own housing, easing the strain on city shelters.

The Biden administration decision, announced Wednesday night, will "also substantially reduce the cost to New York taxpayers with respect to the sheltering of asylum-seekers," Schumer and Jeffries said.

Schumer said Venezuelans make up the largest share of migrants arriving in the U.S.

Biden move could ease strain on city shelters

Adams has said the city is projected to spend nearly $3.6 billion in this fiscal year to house and provide services to migrants.

The city has processed more than 116,000 migrants since last spring, with about 60,000 still under the city’s care, according to figures from the Adams administration.

Previously only Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before March 2021 qualified for TPS. Under the new designation those who were here on or before July 31 of this year will be eligible for the designation, a Department of Homeland Security official said in a call with reporters Wednesday. The designation will last 18 months, the official said.

The New York Immigrant Coalition, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group based in Manhattan, estimates the Biden administration's move could impact some 60,000 Venezuelans in the state.

The TPS program was established in 1990 to provide humanitarian status to migrants living in the U.S. from countries deemed unsafe to live and work due to natural disasters, political turmoil and civil unrest. Migrants from countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua also are eligible for TPS status, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The announcement regarding Venezuelans came as President Joe Biden wrapped up a three-day visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Biden met briefly with Hochul at a reception he hosted Tuesday night in Manhattan, where the governor said she repeated her demands for more federal assistance.

On Wednesday night, Hochul praised the Biden administration’s announcement and said she had directed the state Department of Labor to begin connecting prospective employers with migrants already in the pipeline to receive their temporary work authorization.

“After my productive conversation with President Biden last night, I’m grateful the federal government has acted so speedily to grant one of our top priorities: providing Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan asylum-seekers and migrants who have already arrived in this country,” Hochul said in a statement.

“There’s more work to do as we address this crisis, but the State of New York is prepared to immediately begin the process of signing people up for work authorization and getting them into jobs so they can become self-sufficient,” Hochul said.

Hochul's office said TPS status would allow eligible Venezuelans to receive temporary work permits 30 days after applying for TPS status, compared with the 180-day waiting period federal law requires for asylum applicants.

Praise, criticism for Biden decision

Adams, who has been critical of the Biden administration’s response to the migrant crisis, said Thursday he appreciated Biden's announcement but lamented it covered just a quarter of the migrants in city shelters — about 15,000. Of that number, he said, 5,500 are under age 18.

Adams said Wednesday night he had called the White House personally to offer thanks for the TPS expansion for Venezuelans, but urged that the designation to be extended to migrants from other countries.

“I am hopeful that we can continue to partner with President Biden to extend Temporary Protected Status to the tens of thousands of other migrants in our care from other countries," Adams said in a statement.

On Thursday, Adams noted the city is receiving 10,000 migrants a month, "and a substantial number are still in our care today. And so we can't spike the ball."

But some Republicans on the New York City Council criticized Biden's move, arguing it was unfair to other immigrants who applied for legal status and work authorization before arriving the U.S.

"To allow tens of thousands of migrants to receive work authorization before awarding those who traveled here legally, is a slap in the face to all New Yorkers, immigrants and natural born citizens," Councilwoman Vickie Paladino (R-Queens) said in a statement posted online.

Push for action by state Legislature

Also Thursday, Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) joined labor leaders and immigrant advocates to announce a new task force to lobby for a special session of the state Legislature to consider bills to allow expedited temporary work permits for asylum-seekers not covered by the Biden order.

By turning such migrants into on-the-books workers earning and spending money, “they’re going to be supporting themselves, they’re going to be working themselves, paying ... taxes,” Ramos said at the Long Island Immigration Clinic on the campus of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.

A spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul, asked to comment on the possibility of a special legislative session, emailed a transcript of remarks she made at a Sept. 15 event in Syracuse. Hochul called temporary protected status a “game-changer” that would remove Venezuelans from the shelter system while providing an opportunity to “ask the federal government for work authorization for larger groups of people too.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Republicans who said this spring they would resist attempts by New York City to divert migrants from its shelter system, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

New York City has dropped litigation against Riverhead, Suffolk County and other jurisdictions statewide for blocking the relocation of homeless foreign migrants from the city to those places, according to court filings. The litigation targeted 31 municipalities statewide with similar anti-relocation policies.

Also Thursday, the Biden administration said it was giving temporary legal status to Afghan migrants who arrived in the country after March 15, 2022, and before Sept. 20. Officials said the move would affect roughly 14,600 Afghans.

With Matthew Chayes and Nicholas Spangler

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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