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With up to 80,000 migrants coming to New York, state leaders ask Biden to waive work restrictions

New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, before a news conference asking President Joe Biden for more help coping with the migrant crisis by waiving a six month waiting period to apply for employment
Don Pollard, Office of Gov Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, before a news conference asking President Joe Biden for more help coping with the migrant crisis by waiving a six month waiting period to apply for employment

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, faced with an influx of up to 80,000 migrants, are asking President Joe Biden to waive a rule that says they have to wait six months before they can apply for and get a job.

Hochul says all of the migrants are following the legal process of seeking asylum, and they are eager to work. She says farms across upstate New York are facing a shortage of 5,000 workers as the growing season gets underway. And the restaurant industry has cut hours and service due to a severe shortage of waiters, dishwashers and food prep assistants.

The governor is asking the president, a Democratic ally, to sign an executive order that waives the 180 day waiting requirement before the asylum seekers are allowed to work.

“This is an ask,” Hochul said. “We are pleading, saying, ‘This is a great opportunity here in the state of New York to solve two problems. How to help these people get on their feet and support their families.’”

Hochul was joined by top business and union leaders, who say they are ready to provide training programs and help the migrants with gaining full citizenship, as well as Adams. He calls the influx a crisis of “epic” proportions that could be eased if the waiting period is eliminated.

“Let them work,” Adams said. “Not in the future, but now.”

There’s already been conflict between Adams, a Democrat, and Republican leaders of some upstate counties, who objected to New York City bussing some of the migrants to hotels that were willing to accept payments to house some of the asylum seekers.

Some counties have declared states of emergencies, barring the migrants. Other county leaders have complained that the city of New York has not told them when and where the migrants are coming.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Robert Ortt is asking for greater transparency from the New York City and state governments about how they plan to address the crisis.

“It is a crisis of, and a failure of Democratic policies, again, of open borders and sanctuary cities,” Ortt said. “And there's really no plan about how we're going to deal with it today."

Hochul took a swipe at the county leaders who have barred the migrants, saying they are adopting “bigoted policies based on fear and intimidation.”

The governor says her own grandfather, who immigrated from Ireland as a teenager fleeing poverty, was a farmworker, and her grandmother, also an Irish immigrant, was a domestic servant. They, like the migrants of the present day, faced prejudices, including signs in business saying ‘Irish need not apply.’ She says opponents need to take a longer view of what immigrants can bring to the nation’s economy.

“Their children, eight children, packed into a tiny house, became business leaders, school superintendents, educators," Hochul said, “and a granddaughter even became a governor.”

Some 5,800 new migrants entered New York City in the past week, and that number could reach 20,000 in the next month. Hochul says a number of temporary housing options are being explored, including erecting tents in parking lots, and using dorms at public colleges and universities. The housing is available now that the spring semester has ended. But Hochul says if the 180 day waiting requirement can’t be waived, then there will be a conflict in August when students return to campuses.

The governor says she’s been in close communication with the Biden administration, and says so far, at least they have not said “no” to her request.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.