Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on the federal government Monday to expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers. NewsdayTV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Anthony Florio

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday called on the Biden administration to expedite work authorization for thousands of migrants temporarily housed in New York City, arguing that the asylum-seekers can help solve the state's "historic labor shortage."

Hochul, during a news conference in Brooklyn with Mayor Eric Adams, said she is lobbying the White House to sign an executive order that would lift the 180-day waiting period for migrants to seek work authorization after they file for their legal asylum status. She contended the measure did not require congressional legislation.

"We also have this unprecedented influx of individuals arriving in New York, all of them legally seeking asylum," Hochul said. "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 … Get them shelter. Get them food. Get them legal services. And then help them get to work."

There are thousands of unfilled positions throughout the state on farms, in the food service industry and fields such as housekeeping that could be filled by migrants as they wait for a resolution of their asylum claims, officials said.

"These asylum-seekers came here looking for the American dream — a chance to grow and build successful lives," Adams said, adding that without work permits, migrants could turn to an unregulated underground job market where they might be exploited. "Let's give them a fighting chance of making this dream a reality."

In a statement, the White House said migrants who receive a financial sponsor to stay in the country, or who are from a nation with Temporary Protected Status, can already receive work permits. Adams Monday called on the White House to expand TPS protection to migrants from a host of additional countries.

“But none of these administrative tools are a substitute for Congressional action," the statement said. "We need Congress to act. Only they can reform and modernize our decades-old immigration laws.”

More than 42,000 recently arrived migrants are currently in the city's care at a cost of $4 billion by next year, Adams said. They include 5,800 asylum-seekers who arrived last week and 4,200 the week before.

"We've been able to manage this crisis," Adams said. "But it reaches a point where it becomes unmanageable. And we have stated it clearly: There is no more room in our city." 

New York City is under a legal mandate to provide shelter to whoever needs it but the city is struggling to find housing for the influx of migrants. Hochul said the state is looking at utilizing SUNY campuses to house migrants as well as former psychiatric centers, warehouses and even hangars at Kennedy Airport and Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, Brooklyn.

Adams' overtures to neighboring municipalities to shelter hundreds of the asylum-seekers have fallen on deaf ears as more than a dozen counties, cities and towns — including the Town of Riverhead — have recently declared preemptive states of emergency to block motels and other facilities from signing contracts with the city to accept migrants. Suffolk Republican legislators on Sunday said they will hire a lawyer to explore what can be done to block migrants from being placed in the county.

Immigration advocates will hold a news conference Tuesday in Smithtown to denounce the Suffolk Legislature’s effort.

Judges in Orange and Rockland counties, where the city has tried to place migrants, have granted local officials’ requests to temporarily suspend a city plan to house several hundred at hotels there. Those policies have been challenged through a federal lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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