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Gov. Kathy Hochul calls on Biden administration to expedite work authorization for asylum seekers

Hochul calls on Biden administration to let employers hire asylum seekers
Hochul calls on Biden administration to let employers hire asylum seekers 02:57

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday called on President Joe Biden to direct the federal government to expedite work authorizations for more than 104,000 asylum seekers in New York

"The crisis originated with the federal government and it must be resolved through the federal government," said Hochul.

The last thing Mr. Biden wanted was the governor of "Blue York" demanding action as the presidential election heats up, but Hochul probably had no choice after Mayor Eric Adams put the price tag for New York City at a whopping $12 billion. 

Hochul's back is against the wall. She's been facing mounting pressure from Adams to pick up two-thirds of the cost of housing and caring for tens of thousands of asylum seekers, from advocates to open more shelters and from the courts to honor the Right to Shelter in the state constitution. 

"Just let them work," said Hochul. 

In a letter to Mr. Biden, Hochul demanded federal work authorization to get the asylum seekers out of shelters and living independently.

She also asked for millions of dollars in federal aid, including:

  • 2,000 National Guard members deployed at shelters, at a cost of $22 million per month
  • Asylum seekers' medical costs, including tests for illnesses that might pose a threat to public health
  • Reimbursement to the MTA for free transportation services provided to asylum seekers
  • Housing vouchers so asylum seekers can move into apartments
  • Education aid for school districts asked to accommodate children enrolling in public school, for teaching English as a second language and offering other support services (New York City is being asked to accommodate more than 18,000 asylum seekers who are children)

"These individuals are literally fleeing for their lives, political strife, gang violence, extreme poverty and persecution. They're coming to this country with the same goal that my once-impoverished Irish grandparents did: just to build a better life for themselves and their families," said Hochul. 

The governor also announced a plan to connect asylum seekers with employers with job opportunities throughout the state. 

"I am ordering the Department of Labor to proactively connect asylum seekers with potential employers in anticipation of them receiving the work authorization," said Hochul. "What we've said all along is just let them work and help us out financially." 

Gov. Kathy Hochul update on asylum seeker crisis 09:13

The White House insisted it wants to get more money for New York, but "only Congress can provide additional funding."

Meanwhile, Hochul refused to issue an executive order forcing localities to roll out the welcome mat for asylum seekers, despite Adams' insistence.

"We cannot and will not force other parts of our state to shelter migrants," said Hochul. 

Although city officials are happy to see Hochul taking on the president, court papers obtained by CBS New York indicate the city is far from happy with the steps the governor has taken to assist asylum seekers.

"In 1981, the city of New York and the Coalition for the Homeless signed an agreement that the city would provide shelter to anyone who seeks it. This is an agreement that does not apply to the state's other 57 counties," said Hochul. 

Hochul refuses to order counties outside NYC to shelter asylum seekers 03:03

But au contraire say advocates for the asylum seekers, which is why the city, state and Legal Aid lawyers are arguing about the right to shelter in court. 

The latest set of court papers filed by the city makes it clear that Adams and Hochul, despite claiming they are partners in the struggle to house asylum seekers, are very far apart. 

"The City's ability to coordinate the placement of New Arrivals in other localities ... has been undercut by local officials' flat refusal to permit the accommodation of New Arrivals in hotels within their jurisdictions," the city argued in a point-by-point attack on the suitability of about a dozen new shelter sites the state offered. 

For example:

  • Roberto Clemente State Park Gymnasium in the Bronx - unsuitable because it's in a flood zone that had two flash floods last summer
  • Riverback State Park Gym in Manhattan - no air conditioning, no functioning bathrooms
  • Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens - unsuitable because the city can only use it until Sept. 7. 
  • The Harlem Armory - doesn't meet fire code requirements

At the city's asylum seeker briefing, Commissioner Manuel Castro of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs said he doesn't understand the president's reluctance to help. 

"We don't understand why the federal government is not more involved. Maybe because it's immigrants, maybe because it's New York City. We don't understand. So we expect them to be doing more," said Castro. "We need support for the next 100,000 asylum seekers that are arriving in our city." 

Adams made it clear he disagrees with Hochul's refusal to order other counties to share the load. 

"Leaving New York City alone to manage this crisis and abdicating the state's responsibility to coordinate a statewide response is unfair to New York City residents," he said. 

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