Asylum seekers in NYC facing roadblocks in getting permits to work

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Asylum seekers in NYC facing roadblocks in getting permits to work
The humanitarian relief center for migrants arriving in New York City is open as asylum seekers figure out how to get work. Sonia Rincon has the story.

RANDALL'S ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- More than 21,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City, creating a log jam in the nation's biggest sanctuary city.

But now one of the bigger problems the migrants are facing is the issue of getting permits to work.

The process of applying for asylum so migrants can work in the U.S. legally is daunting and can actually keep them from earning a paycheck for more than a year.

Those who want desperately to work legally are running into roadblocks, lining up at Federal Plaza in the morning to take the first step -- get an appointment to check in with ICE, which creates a record of their case with immigration court.

"Those waiting periods to get into the building are very long," said attorney Lauren Wyatt with Catholic Charities. "A lot of times people are not getting scheduled for their first ice check in until 2024. This is a problem because if you want to apply for asylum, you need to do that within one year."

While they stay at shelters that offer some help like the Row NYC or Randall's Island, waiting if they have nowhere else to go, Wyatt says they can't file for asylum until the court has a record of their case.

"So people are really in a catch 22 confusing situation where there's nowhere they can apply for asylum, they won't be able to do it until after their deadline and in the meantime they can't work lawfully," Wyatt said.

An association that represents 15,000 bodegas announced they are hiring - if the Biden administration will let them do so legally.

"We are opening our doors for those migrants that are coming here desperately seeking work and seeking opportunity," said Fernando Mateo of United Bodegas of America. "We're not going to turn our backs on them. Of course, we must follow the law."

There's a 150 day waiting period for work permits after an asylum application is filed. The mayor today said that's where he's asking for help from Washington again.

"We're hoping the federal government does the same thing that we did during the Ukrainian war of allowing individuals who are here to work who want to work," Adams said.

Meanwhile the humanitarian relief center for migrants arriving in New York City remained open for its second day on Randall's Island, but not many people are staying there right now.

City officials say 15,900 asylum seekers are currently in their care. But so far only three of those arrivals are staying at the tent complex on Randall's Island because that site is only for adult men without families.

Derick Waller reports we are expecting from NYC later today an update on the status of asylum seekers who already arrived.

The two buses of asylum seekers that arrived at Port Authority Bus Terminal early Wednesday were mostly families, and they were taken to the Row NYC Hotel.

After the Biden administration announced Venezuelan asylum seekers must apply in advance and have a U.S. sponsor, it appears the number of migrants being allowed in has declined.

"We are happy to see that the buses seem to be slowing down," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Service Anne Williams. "And we are very appreciative of the Biden administration for that."

The mayor of El Paso, Texas confirmed what appears to be a decreasing number of migrants at the border.

ALSO READ | Man stabbed, suspect pepper-sprayed in subway dispute on Upper West Side

Johny Fernandez reports from the the 72nd Street subway station.


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