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Hochul Calls To Expedite Work Authorizations for Asylum Seekers, Advocates Say Delays Are Not New

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Governor Kathy Hochul addresses New Yorkers on the Asylum Seeker crisis from the Red Room at the State Capitol.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

As Hochul Calls To Expedite Work Authorizations for Asylum Seekers, Local Advocates Say Delays Are Nothing New

As Gov. Kathy Hochul amplifies her call for federal intervention, in expediting work authorizations for tens of thousands of asylum seekers in New York state, advocates for workplace and economic justice in Syracuse say authorizations and related challenges go beyond the current migrant crisis. 

In a statewide address on Thursday, Hochul called on the Biden administration to take executive action to speed up work authorizations, and to direct additional federal resources to the state, to help the roughly 100,000 asylum seekers she says have arrived in the state in the past year. Jessica Maxwell, Executive Director of the Worker’s Center of Central New York, agrees federal leadership has been lacking, but says delays in work authorization are nothing new.

“There are asylum seekers already in our communities who've been waiting a long time. We know people who've waited a year two years during the pandemic," said Maxwell. "We would like to make sure that it's not just recent arrivals that we're looking at but everybody who's waiting on their work authorizations.”

Maxwell acknowledges the volume of asylum seekers arriving by bus is new to the equation. Onondaga County has sued to block their arrival from New York City.

“It's a shame to see Onondaga County kind of wasting our time and effort in a court case instead of just figuring out how to provide good coordination for something that we already have a lot of experience doing, which is resettlement work," said Maxwell.

She says numerous organizations statewide are ready to help the asylum seekers and treat them with dignity in ways that won’t overwhelm the community, but she says it appears that coordination and cooperation are lacking from government at every level.

“We're manufacturing a crisis. It doesn't have to be a crisis," said Maxwell. "We could address this in a much more organized way that doesn't put all these stresses and emergency requests on local communities.”

New York state is spending $20 million to speed up the casework filing process for more than 30,000 asylum seekers in New York City. The state has already allocated $1.5 billion and deployed nearly 2,000 members of the New York National Guard.

This story was originally reported by our friends at WAER