Governor Kathy Hochul has declared that New York State is not legally permitted to grant work permits to migrants, a move that could have provided some relief to the ongoing migrant crisis.
Despite exploring the option, Hochul stated on Tuesday, November 14th, that such an action would place employers at risk of facing legal issues under federal immigration laws.
On Monday, the governor expressed her limitations, saying, “I’m constrained by the law. I cannot indemnify or protect the employers from any kind of federal prosecution for violating immigration laws. That’s the only barrier. It’s a big one.”
Legal experts stress the unprecedented nature of the situation, with Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University, noting that any state-led initiative to issue work papers would be a legal quagmire, potentially sparking protracted legal battles without offering immediate relief to the state.
The initiative hinted at in September would have seen the state employ migrants directly and then assign them to other employers, circumventing the sluggish federal work permit system.
However, this idea was not supported by White House officials.
In New York City, a burgeoning humanitarian challenge emerges as numerous asylum seekers remain uncertain without federal work permits. The predicament has prompted the mobilization of considerable city and state resources to provide for their basic needs.
Asylum seekers are required by federal law to wait 150 days before applying for a work permit, a wait time lengthened by current backlogs.
With no imminent changes to the work authorization system due to a gridlocked Congress, states are left to work within the existing immigration framework.
Governor Hochul has also reiterated her call for additional federal support to handle the asylum seeker situation, urging Congress to back President Biden’s request for supplemental funding.
This funding aims to address the migrant crisis, along with aiding in natural disaster relief and supporting Ukraine and Israel.
Hochul emphasized the urgency for New York to receive federal aid, especially as the state pledges to allocate nearly $2 billion to assist New York City with migrant-related costs. However, the state’s budget director has signaled the need to limit this spending in the upcoming budget.