NEW YORK -- After calls to expedite work permits for asylum seekers went unanswered, the state of New York may have found a loophole to get them working.
It comes as the number of asylum seekers arriving in New York City has surpassed 113,000, including 3,200 in the last week.
For a mayor and a governor coping with the spiraling costs of caring for tens of thousands of migrants, the way out is simple: let them work so they can be self supporting.
"The problem is not going to go away and we have to think out of the box," Bronx state Sen. Luis Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda has come up with a work-around, a way to circumvent onerous federal requirements for asylum seekers to get work permits.
He says let the state do it.
Sepulveda and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz have introduced a bill that would allow the state to issue permits that would allow both private and public sector employers to legally hire asylum seekers.
"Marcia, the business community is clamoring for this. It would be a win-win situation for our economy. It would be a win-win situation for the city and the state, and certainly a win-win situation for those migrant workers that want to work and provide for their families," Sepulveda said.
The work permit issue is complicated because the federal government has three different categories. Some, like those from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, can get permits within days after they apply. However, asylum seekers who enter through the Southern border have to wait six months to apply and even longer to get authorization.
On Wednesday, Mayor Adams launched what he called an "expedited sprint" to identify people who are currently eligible to apply for work authorization.
"This effort began last week and will continue over the coming weeks as we work to reach approximately 40,000 adults in our care," Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said.
Gov. Hochul said she met with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to discuss allowing the state to issue its own permits. Sepulveda said she should call a special session to pass the bill as soon as possible.
"I believe that this has to be dealt with immediately," Sepulveda said. "I don't think it'd be a good idea to wait until January, when officially the session starts."
The governor said she hasn't yet made up her mind about bringing lawmakers back to Albany to deal with the issue. She said another solution is immigration reform. She said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy should focus on that,.
"Republicans in Washington ought to get their act together, show up, do their jobs, stop pointing the fingers and actually do something useful for once," Hochul said.
New York City is also ramping up a program to help asylum seekers complete their paperwork. So far, the city's application center has helped 3,800 people.
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