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Venezuelan asylum seekers in New York City say decision to allow them to work will change their lives

Venezuelan asylum seekers in NYC say being able to work will change their lives
Venezuelan asylum seekers in NYC say being able to work will change their lives 02:18

NEW YORK -- Venezuelans seeking asylum in New York City flooded the office of a local nonprofit that helps file work authorization papers on Thursday.

It happened after the Biden administration announced it would grant temporary legal status to nearly 500,000 from the South American country already in the United States.

CBS New York spoke with two families that said it will change their lives.

READ MOREMayor Adams: Biden administration's decision to allow Venezuelan asylum seekers to work in U.S. is not enough

With 1-month-old Derek, a family from Caracas came to Project Rousseau on West 46th Street to file for work authorization papers.

Keverling De Nazareth Cabriles Natera said through a translator she is very happy to come to America to fight for asylum seeker families.

The Department of Homeland Security is extending temporary protected status for 18 months to Venezuelans who arrived and stayed in the U.S. through July 31. It cited extraordinary conditions there that prevent individuals from safely returning.

This also means they only need to wait 30 days to work -- instead of 180 days.

Maria Cabriles, a journalist, said she hopes once they can start working they will become independent and not rely on government services.

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Project Rousseau founder Andrew Heinrich said his office expedited appointments to meet with 50 Venezuelan families a day, though they're waiting for the feds to officially open registration.

"Our approach is let's get ahead of the curve. Let's get these applications ready and the minute that we can submit them we're going to submit as many of them as we can," Heinrich said.

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Asylum seekers that CBS New York spoke with said they were fleeing political persecution or finding it very difficult to make ends meet in the economy in Venezuela.

"We have quite a few indigenous clients as well who have been targeted because of their indigenous identity," Heinrich said.

Michael Meza said he is grateful for the program.

"Yeah, very emotional, yes," Meza said through a translator.

Project Rousseau said employers have been reaching out, primarily from the hospitality industry, but also in the security sector as well.

Mayor Eric Adams said the new work authorization is a good first step, but it's not enough.

Data from the city shows out of the 60,000 migrants in the city's care, less than one-third -- about 14,000 -- are Venezuelans who are eligible to work.

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