A “Productive Conversation With President Biden” Put Thousands of Venezuelan Refugees Into the NYC Workforce

The Biden administration thinks it has a solution to two pressing problems in New York City. With one fell swoop of the pen, tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants are suddenly part of the workforce. Here is the full story.

Venezuelan Migrants Not Permitted to Work

In recent months, New York City has seen the number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees swell as part of the ongoing exodus from the politically volatile country.

Beyond just straining the city’s infrastructure and adding to an already crowded urban setting, the migrants also presented a financial challenge.

By mid-September of 2023, there were about 60,000 Venezuelans in NYC who were in the care of the state because they were not permitted to work legally in the state.

At the same time, New York, like most states and cities, faces a shortage of workers in many industries. Chief among those are healthcare and construction.

Applying for Work Permits

But on September 20, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas took one major step toward alleviating both problems.

Specifically, Mayorkas granted the right to apply for temporary protected status, or TPS, to Venezuelan migrants for 18 months, according to a Politico report.

According to the senior Biden official who made the announcement, the move came after a review of current conditions in Venezuela.

The double-duty benefit comes from the fact that those Venezuelan refugees can now also apply for work permits.

A Boost to the Workforce

That could boost the American workforce by nearly 500,000 workers nationwide. In New York alone, the number is about 60,000, according to the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).

The NYIC says that these migrants should be able to get quick approval to work, which could provide a big boost to local economies.

The move by the Biden administration to extend working rights to migrants from troubled countries has received widespread support from government officials across the country.

Sometimes, as in the case of New York, that support might be better categorized as “pressure.”

Quick Action Needed

Both New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul have been in close contact with the White House on this issue as the migrant counts have grown.

After the announcement, Hochul applauded the move and cited her “productive conversation with President Biden” the night before as an impetus for the quick action.

For his part, Adams hopes adding Venezuelans to the workforce is just the beginning.

In a statement released by the mayor’s office after the Biden administration’s announcement, Adams said he wants the same treatment for “tens of thousands of other migrants in our care from other countries.” 

Whether that comes to pass and how quickly it might happen probably depends on continued review by Mayorkas and other officials.

Fixing the Core Problem

But this issue also has support from Congress, at least on the Democrat side of the aisle.

In a joint statement, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries applauded the decision to allow Venezuelans to work while they await an asylum decision.

Even with that support from top Dems, who are also New Yorkers, another Biden official says that Congress needs to step up to fix the core problem.

The official noted that while Biden can make TPS determinations on his own, only sweeping changes to immigration policies can prevent bottlenecks like this in the future.

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