Workforce

White House and NY officials brainstorm ways to deepen the immigrant labor pool

In a lengthy meeting this week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and senior Biden administration officials pledged to find ways of putting more asylum seekers into jobs. They've already agreed on one way to do it.
The Roosevelt in Midtown Manhattan has been turned into housing for asylum seekers. | Photo: Shutterstock

Restaurants may be able to hire newly arrived immigrants to the U.S. more quickly as the result of a meeting held Wednesday between senior Biden administration officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Participants said much of their two-plus-hour conversation in the White House focused on getting more asylum seekers and other recent immigrants to apply for the permits needed to work legally in the U.S.

About 20% of new arrivals who used the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s CBP One smartphone app to facilitate entry into the country are adults eligible to work right away. Yet only 16% of the “non-citizens” relocating to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Hochul’s state have filed for clearance to accept a job, the department said.

The administration said it would convene in September with officials of New York and New York City for a “month of action” devoted to employing more asylum seekers. The federal officials committed to launching a first-of-its-kind national campaign to encourage more sign-ups for work permits. The campaign will extend to text messages and emails sent directly to qualifying individuals in their native languages, the White House said.

“We focused on a number of immediate and tangible actions, including several that would allow more individuals to work legally in the United States,” said Hochul.

Her state, and New York City in particular, have been flooded with noncitizens who fled their home countries to seek safety and economic opportunity in the U.S. Many were shipped to New York after being intercepted by immigration authorities along the United States’ Southern border.

Housing all those arrivals has been a particularly difficult problem. New York City has converted the landmark Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Manhattan into temporary housing for the new arrivals. Creedmore, a huge former psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of the city, has similarly been turned into a dormitory.

Meanwhile, New York is suffering from a severe shortage of workers. Yet employers risk significant legal penalties if they hire immigrants lacking the proper documentation.

“Securing expedited work authorization for asylum seekers and migrants has been and remains my top priority,” Hochul said in a statement issued after the White House meeting. “It is the only way to help asylum seekers become self-sustaining, so they can move into permanent housing.

“This is a critical first step,” the governor continued, “but make no mistake: it is not enough to fully address this crisis or provide the level of support that New Yorkers need and deserve.” She pledged to push for permanent fixes to the immigration process.

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