IMMIGRATIONExpedited Work Permits for Migrants a Key Part of “Ttransition to Life” in NYS

Published 1 September 2023

As New York grapples with an influx of migrants, two Cornell University law professors call on the administration to expedite the work authorization process for these migrants under the Administrative Procedures Act, so that they can begin to work, thus helping address the state’s labor shortages and take care of themselves.

Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday last week called on the White House to do more to help the surge of migrants coming to New York. In a public address, she pushed for expedited work permits and more federal monetary assistance.

Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, says allowing migrants to work is an important part of alleviating the crisis.

Kelley-Widmer says:

Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams, together with the Biden administration, must work collaboratively to ensure that all arriving migrants are supported in their transition to life in New York State. In upstate New York, coalitions of service providers have already been working to welcome new arrivals.  

Once migrants’ basic needs like housing and medical care are met, they will be ready to seek work. Allowing migrants to work means they can reciprocate the care upstate communities are extending them, helping to alleviate the worker shortage in these areas. But, under the current law, they cannot apply for a work permit until their asylum claim has been pending for six months.

The Biden administration should work to expedite the asylum and work authorization process, which they could do through an interim final rule under the Administrative Procedures Act. Municipalities across New York and the nation have the humanitarian duty to welcome migrants, who will in turn revitalize local economies and become part of the community.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, says that problems caused by the recent influx of migrants to New York can be resolved without the courts.

Yale-Loehr says: 

An influx of migrants has cost New York City over a billion dollars. As a result, Mayor Eric Adams is trying to relocate some migrants upstate. Some upstate counties have responded by issuing ordinances barring migrants from being relocated to their areas. The issue is now being litigated. The legal issue is whether the New York state constitution requires the whole state to provide a right to shelter, not just New York City.

This issue can be de-escalated and resolved politically, rather than through the courts. First, Congress should appropriate money to help all states that are housing these migrants. Second, the NY state legislature should allocate money statewide to help migrants relocate. Third, migrants should be given work permits so that they can help resolve labor shortages throughout the state. Done correctly, this can be a win-win for everyone.