On Tuesday, September 12th, the Biden administration cited Congress’s inaction as the reason behind delays in processing migrant work visas in New York City.
Mayor Eric Adams had previously raised concerns, stating that prolonged visa processing times are pushing asylum-seeking migrants towards illegal activities, including involvement in the sex trade.
Instead of introducing a new strategy to address the escalating migrant situation in the city, White House officials offered past solutions. They encouraged the private sector to take a more active role.
During a press briefing intended for New York media, Biden administration officials squarely placed the blame on Congress. They emphasized the legislative body’s failure to enact comprehensive immigration reforms that could hasten work authorizations for migrants in the city.
Current United States laws prevent migrants from receiving a work permit until approximately six months after submitting their asylum application, leading to an employment gap of up to eight months.
Officials at the briefing stated that the Department of Homeland Security remains committed to ensuring that migrants are well-informed about their work authorization eligibility. They further recommended the private sector step in, suggesting providing pro bono legal aid and sharing resources to guide asylum-seeking migrants.
Mayor Adams emphasized the urgent need to speed up permit processes, emphasizing that the city’s labor shortages could be addressed by employing these migrants. He also shed light on the growing “black market” for migrant employment due to these delays.
In a conversation with CBS, Mayor Adams remarked, “Now people are working. So we created a black market of employment, low wages, and women have been sexually exploited. Workers have been treated unfairly.”
He continued, “You see an increase in prostitution in the city because people have to provide for their families, and it is really going to impact the quality of life in our city.”
Adams reiterated the potential of migrants to alleviate the city’s labor shortages. He cited specific job vacancies, like lifeguard positions during the summer, which migrants could fill.
Adams expressed hope that the federal government would recognize these needs and act accordingly, emphasizing his inability to bypass legal procedures to grant work permissions.
While New York Governor Kathy Hochul assured that the federal government is committed to sending Department of Homeland Security personnel to help with asylum applications, the recent briefing provided neither a clear timeline nor specifics about the numbers involved.