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NYC activists want the federal government to expedite work authorization for migrants

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

New York City has become one of the major battlegrounds over immigration. About a hundred thousand migrants have arrived there since the spring of last year. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, along with local businesses and advocates, is demanding that the federal government expedite work authorizations for migrants. And it's not just New York. Massachusetts and Illinois are making similar requests. The idea is the faster people can work, the quicker they can graduate from the shelters, which are saturated. Joining us now to explain is NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Hi, Jasmine.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

FADEL: So how long does it take to get a work authorization right now?

GARSD: Well, if you're in the U.S. seeking asylum, which so many people in this recent wave of migration are hoping to do, it takes a very long time. You have to first figure out how to apply, which can be confusing. And then once you apply, you have to wait another 150 days until you can even apply for a work permit. So that's at least six months waiting for a work authorization. I was at a rally last week, and I talked to Alexander Rapaport, who runs several soup kitchens in the city. Here's what he had to say.

ALEXANDER RAPAPORT: It is just so un-American, so inhumane. The most important, the most basic rights a person could have is to fend for themselves.

FADEL: So where does Congress stand on reducing this wait time?

GARSD: There are proposals in both the House and Senate right now which look into shortening the amount of time an asylum-seeker has to wait for a work permit. But Congress is so divided on this matter, it just might not pass.

FADEL: What is New York asking for from the federal government, and is it something that's feasible?

GARSD: OK, so this is where it gets a bit complicated, so bear with me.

FADEL: OK.

GARSD: There's several different kinds of immigration status. One way you can be in the U.S. is with something called Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

FADEL: Yeah.

GARSD: And the president can decide who to extend that to. It's typically people from countries where there's been a natural disaster or unrest. And Temporary Protected Status comes with a work authorization. So one thing the Adams administration has asked is that President Biden extend Temporary Protected Status to more people so they can apply for work authorization right away. But, you know, there's already such a backlog in processing those requests. And in order to get more staffing to process them, well, that's up to Congress again.

FADEL: Are they divided on that, too?

GARSD: Yeah, no, there's been no movement on that at all.

FADEL: OK, so two places where there isn't movement. So what's the White House saying?

GARSD: The Biden administration has requested $600 million from Congress. Also, senior White House officials met with New York Governor Kathy Hochul last week, and they announced they're going to be launching a national campaign with information on how to apply for work authorization if you're eligible. Now, here's New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams responding to all that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUMAANE WILLIAMS: It's not enough to send federal staff to New York City. We need to work to establish nationwide infrastructure, nationwide reform. That is what we need. And I am clear that Republican governors really started this mess. But it is a Democratic White House that is making it worse, making it worse, making it worse.

GARSD: And that is the mood among New York City officials and advocates right now - thank you, but you're not doing enough.

FADEL: Jasmine Garsd covers immigration for NPR. Thanks so much for joining us.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.