Work permits won’t magically solve New York’s refugee crisis — they will make it worse

After weeks of fighting, Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams finally reached an agreement on how to solve the refugee crisis.

The answer, they said last week, is faster work permits from Washington.

When these two agree on something to do with migrants, you know it’s probably wrong.

“We need to expedite the issuance of work visas,” Adams said Thursday at a rally in Lower Manhattan. “We appeal to our national leaders.”

The fact that he had to appear to protest President Joe Biden’s motion doesn’t bode well for a collaborative breakthrough on the part of DC.

Hochul is no better.

She went to Washington to make the same request – but couldn’t even set up a meeting with the President.

It’s just a good thing Biden isn’t listening because Adams and Hochul don’t have a case.

The argument is that the sooner migrants can work, the sooner the city can relieve itself of the burden of accommodating 60,000 newcomers.

Both Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have called on the Biden administration to expedite work permits for migrants.
Both Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have called on the Biden administration to expedite work permits for migrants.
Paul Martinka

Therefore, the White House should ask Congress to lift the requirement that migrants wait six months to apply for a work permit after filing an asylum application.

A flaw in this strategy is that the White House cannot currently control the border.

Will Biden do a better job after Congress created a huge new incentive to come?

On September 3, 2023, a group of migrants gathered in front of the Roosevelt Hotel accommodation.
On September 3, 2023, a group of migrants gathered in front of the Roosevelt Hotel accommodation.
Kevin C Downs for NY Post

Another flaw is that there are many migrants Are work even though it is not allowed.

Sidewalks and streets around the Roosevelt, The Row, and Watson hotels have become informal delivery hubs for Uber Eats and DoorDash.

As reported by The City news agencymigrants are also “quickly finding a place in New York’s voracious off-the-books economy,” in restaurants and in construction, “like generations of immigrants before them.”

Before the city’s current refugee crisis began in 2022, about 11 million illegal immigrants lived in the United States, most of them working. Half a million lived in New York City.

But this immigrant population lived themselves and rented apartments and rooms.

Why didn’t tens of thousands of them show up in city shelters?

Quite simply, the city had not previously opened welcome center after welcome center and converted hotel after hotel into shelters.

When the mayor appears at the Port Authority and welcomes migrants seeking shelter “with open arms”, more migrants will expect such treatment.

Another problem with issuing work permits to new migrants is: What about the old migrants? If you’ve worked as a dishwasher or housekeeper for years, shouldn’t you get a work permit too?

Asylum claims notwithstanding, most of the people who came here 10 or 20 years ago came for the same reason they did a month ago: job opportunities.

Granting work permits to newcomers inevitably means rewarding existing work permits to migrants.

That means migrant workers at all Employment levels, including high-skilled and well-paid jobs.

A protester at the rally calling for migrants to be given work visas in Foley Square.
A protester at the rally calling for migrants to be granted work visas in Foley Square.
Paul Martinka

Why would Google or Microsoft bother applying for tight visas for skilled workers when well-educated applicants could fly here and apply for asylum and work for a decade before the government gets to decide on the application? Most of the world is concerned in some way.

And what will the US government do in 2035 if they find that an asylum seeker who applied in 2023 was not eligible for asylum – deport them?

So what Adams and Hochul are asking for is not a limited contingency measure.

It is a sweeping, retrospective, no-questions-asked amnesty for all illegal workers of all skill and education levels, past, present and future.

Proponents of on-call work permits argue that the country needs workers. “Many US industries are facing labor shortages,” business leaders wrote last week.

But in New York there is already a skills gap between the unemployed and available jobs.

The state has one of the highest job seeker to vacancy ratios in the country.

And the city’s private sector experienced one of the slowest post-COVID recoveries in the country, only getting back to 2019 job counts in March this year, a year behind the country.

It is not clear whether low-wage workers need more low-wage workers to compete with them.

Certainly there are intellectual arguments for completely open borders. Libertarians take this case.

But Hochul and Adams should be clear: Fully open borders are exactly what they are calling for.

And they’re not doing it for principled libertarian reasons, but because they’ve messed with the city’s housing rights policy.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.


DUSTIN JONES is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DUSTIN JONES joined USTimeToday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with DUSTIN JONES by emailing

Related Articles

Back to top button