New York, NY — Today, a unique group of organizations representing various sectors of New York City rallied in Battery Park to demand the federal government to expand Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in order to grant immediate access to work authorizations for recently arrived asylum seekers.
With the Statue of Liberty — a symbol of hope to generations of immigrants — in the background, the leaders from various organizations called for the Biden administration to re-designate and expedite TPS applications for newly arrived asylum seekers and individuals struggling to find long-term housing and work opportunities. Members of Make the Road New York, SEIU 1199, 32BJ SEIU, the NYC Employment & Training Coalition, Mixteca, 86 the Barrier, La Colmena and Part of the Solution were among those advocating for speedier work authorizations for the arriving migrant community.
“The Biden administration has an obligation to redesignate and expedite TPS applications. Federal policy requires asylum seekers to wait months, sometimes years to receive work authorization, forcing too many of them into an underground economy of unreliable jobs that are exploitative if not dangerous,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. “Thousands of asylum seekers want to work so they can work towards cementing themselves into their new communities.”
“The contributions of immigrants with Temporary Protected Status has been crucial to sustaining many sectors of our economy, including areas where thousands of our members with TPS provide essential services, from cleaning government offices to servicing planes at major airports,” said Shirley Aldebol, Executive Vice President of 32BJ SEIU. “Their contributions make clear how we would all benefit if President Biden acted quickly to provide work authorization to recently arrived migrants by re-designating TPS for those from countries where conditions clearly remain dangerous, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, and offering it anew to others from countries where they are equally perilous, such as Guatemala. In today’s economy, where work shortages are rampant, such authorization would allow migrants to provide for their families with good-paying jobs.”
“As a home care worker, I see how so much of our healthcare system depends on immigrants to care for our state’s most vulnerable people,” said Ana Medina, an 1199SEIU homecare worker who immigrated to the US from Mexico as a child and gained her citizenship earlier this year. “Like so many immigrants, I came to this country to seek a better life, support my family, and be a caregiver to my community. Providing immigrants like me with opportunities for meaningful employment and the ability to contribute to our society is so important to New York’s future.”
“New York's building industry has always been supported by the waves of immigration that carried families, like mine, across our five boroughs as they pursued the American dream,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Esq., President & CEO of the NY Building Congress. “Work authorization for asylum seekers is a common sense solution that will ease the stress on our public sector while allowing new arrivals to be independent, help fuel local economies, and give back to their new communities. We call on President Biden and the administration to work with Mayor Adams, Gov. Hochul and local partners to expedite TPS so that we can fully live up to New York City’s legacy as a place where anybody with that same dream can call home.”
“The asylum seekers that have entered New York in the past year have risked everything to secure futures that have been unattainable. Members of our coalition have extended limited resources to provide care and compassion while offering job readiness and skill-building opportunities. But we recognize that this moment in our collective history requires more and we are compelled to appeal to the Biden administration to make work possible now by expanding and re-designating Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” said Gregory J Morris, CEO of New York City Employment and Training Coalition. “TPS protects asylum seekers - reducing the likelihood of exploitative, dangerous work conditions and increasing access to good jobs and fair wages. No matter the starting point, every New Yorker deserves a pathway to prosperity. With those pathways in place and a relentless commitment to shared success, our City will find itself on the other side of the crisis stronger than ever.”
“In the past year, tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in New York State. An overwhelming majority of the people migrating here are driven to do so to escape precarious and life-threatening situations in their home countries. However, despite taking this immense risk with the hopes of a better life, they have been met with several roadblocks preventing them from starting their new lives. Thousands remain unable to work, as a result of not having work authorizations, thus severely limiting their ability to provide for themselves and forcing them to be heavily reliant on services provided by the government,” said Luba Cortés, Immigrant Defense Coordinator for Make the Road New York. “To make matters worse, current immigration laws prevent asylum seekers from working for at least a year. To solve this issue, Biden’s administration has the power to expand TPS for existing countries and add new countries, which would allow asylum seekers to have access to work authorization. Additionally, the USCIS should support those seeking employment authorization by speeding up processing times.”
"We urge the Biden administration to expand Temporary Protected Status and expedite work authorization so people can start working without subjecting themselves to the abuses of underground workforce labor, “ said Lorena Kourousias, Executive Director of Mixteca. “Granting employment authorization to asylum seekers is pivotal not only to take steps to address the humanitarian crisis but to decrease financial pressure in the City. This is a large group of skilled people ready to contribute to the local economy. It's not just about giving them the opportunity to work but taking a significant step to manage overcrowded shelters, prevent abuses and invest in self-sufficiency."
"For many years, individuals with Temporary Protected Status have contributed billions of dollars to local economies and the beautification of the communities they live in, and have added tremendous value to our society at large. It's imperative that our government recognizes the benefits that immigrants bring and more importantly, creates an immigration system that is welcoming and fair," said Claudia Carrera, Newcomer Project Manager at I-ARC. “Making TPS available to more people would help ease the backlogs in our immigration system, would allow these individuals to work and fully participate in our economic and civic life, and would alleviate some of the pressure on our providers who are struggling to meet the needs of many with far too few resources."
“In the past year, we’ve seen an increase in asylum seekers from several countries arriving on Staten Island. Many of them, who took great risks to come here in search of a better life for themselves and their families, are unable to work without the proper work authorization, which restricts their ability to support themselves and their families and forces them to resort to dehumanizing underground labor,” said Abigail Dorcin, Organizing Manager at La Colmena. “They deserve better! We urge the Biden administration to expand Temporary Protected status to allow newcomers the ability to support themselves and rely less on the government and social services.”
“We see every day how crushing and dehumanizing it is for these new New Yorkers to not be able to find suitable, lucrative work. There are also thousands of employers across New York City desperate for labor,” said Joanna Carpenter, Found of 86 the Barrier. “Without federal action, businesses still recovering from the pandemic will suffer as they try to stay open and asylum seekers will continue to be unwitting victims of an urban infrastructure strained to the point of collapse.”
“In The Bronx, we have seen an increasing number of asylum seekers come to us seeking to address their most urgent needs. Being in a state of extreme vulnerability, some of them have experienced complex challenges, including food insecurity, health issues and being preyed upon by scammers who want to take advantage of them,” said Diego Padilla, Director of Communication at Part of the Solution. “At Part of the Solution, we are doing our best to respond to this crisis, but we need the support of local authorities, and other key actors to expedite the array of solutions that we can offer to these families in need”.
"In Rockland County, the truth is many who have been here, who are still waiting for their working documents, are already working and contributing to the local economy,” said Rosario Urena and Maria Marasigan, Co-Executive Directors of Proyecto Faro. “They want to provide for their families and be a part of making improvements to the places they now call home. Conservatives in our county continue to promote a dangerous false narrative that immigrants drain our community of resources. In addition to this being incorrect, these ideas have led to violence and ongoing discrimination. Without an expedited and expanded TPS program, our county’s immigrants will experience increased exploitation, bigotry, violence, and potential homelessness. By strengthening TPS, the federal government has an opportunity to demonstrate that its intentions, when letting asylum seekers into the U.S., is not for the purpose of deliberate exploitation for profit but to act in good faith, providing sanctuary from danger and pathways towards humanization, dignified work, and citizenship. An effective TPS program would bring greater safety for our communities as a whole."
In the last year, over 100,000 migrants from several countries have arrived in New York State but are unable to work without the proper authorization, limiting their ability to provide for themselves and forcing them to rely on limited social services.
Through TPS, President Biden has the tool that would allow new asylum seekers to have immediate access to work authorization. Countries that meet the TPS statutory requirements warranting TPS re-designations, including Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, and Cameroon. Additionally, Guatemala, Mauritania, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Senegal, Haiti and Nigeria.
Earlier this month, the organizations wrote to DHS Secretary Mayorkas to push the Biden Administration to act on the need to help asylum seekers connect to work opportunities that allow them to provide for themselves and their families while giving back to the communities they now live in.
Speakers during the event asked that the federal government seek solutions — including the urgent need to expand TPS to decrease pressure on shelters and boost local economies. Those working directly with impacted individuals in New York shared stories of their experiences.