Migrants in New York City Remain Unemployed Despite Job Program

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Nov 12, 2023

New York City, or The Big Apple as it is fondly called, has always been one of those cities in America that attracts millions of people from all over the world.

From tourists eager to see the skyscrapers and exciting sights, to immigrants looking to land a job, NYC is a place of boundless opportunities.

Fewer Migrants Are Trying to Work

So, it’s quite surprising for the city officials to report that while there are well over 40,000 adult migrants registered in the system, only 2,100 have sought work permits.

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Blurred crowd of unrecognizable people walking around a busy street

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This comes on the heels of the Department of Homeland Security’s latest extension of temporary legal status to asylum seekers. So, why are only a few applying to work?

Chasing the American Dream

In the United States, asylum seekers are welcomed from different parts of the world where they aren’t safe and protected. Once they arrive, the government grants them temporary legal status.

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Job applicants seated and looking at the documents in their hands

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This has been in place since 1990, and over 600,000 foreign nationals from 16 countries hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS) up to date. The temporary legal status gives them the right to live and work in the United States.

Venezuelans Get the Opportunity for a Better Life

There are over 400,000 Venezuelans currently living in the United States who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Migrants can hold the status for 18 months.

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A TPS activist making a speech calling on the government to fulfill their promises at a rally in Washington, DC

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Only individuals experiencing exceptional conditions in their home country that make it risky for them to return are granted TPS. That’s why Venezuelans are benefiting from the policy because of the current unrest in their country.

New Migrants Aren’t Getting TPS

Before the TPS program was extended, 242,700 Venezuelan migrants who had moved to the United States before March 2021 had been beneficiaries.

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Approved and Rejected stamps

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However, in an interesting turn of events, those migrants who had arrived in the U.S. after July 31, 2023, were not considered for the TPS program.

The State of New York Supports Migrants

Following the Department of Homeland Security’s decision, the Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, and the New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, have promised to give their support to migrants who have been granted temporary legal status.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul making a speech at the New York office

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that migrants with legal work status will have the opportunity to access 18,000 private-sector job openings in the state. This gives migrants a shot at a better future for themselves and their families, and it also boosts the state’s labor force.

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More Money Is Being Allocated to Assist Migrants

Committed to the pledge of assisting migrants, the state of New York has allocated $38 million for the legal services migrants may need. This is in addition to the $50 million the state had previously committed toward the same purpose.

A group of lawyers standing at the stairwell of a court complex

Source: Media Bakery

The aim of the recent initiative is to provide needed assistance to migrants trying to settle into the country, finding their way around the complicated process of obtaining work permits and landing a job. This will ease the stress of transitioning out of shelter systems to becoming more independent.

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A Joint Effort to Support Eligible Migrants

The state of New York has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a registration process that will simplify migrants’ applications for the TPS program. However, despite all that the state has put in place to support migrants who are eligible for the program, only a handful have taken advantage of it.

Two hands locked in a firm handshake

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The latest data indicates that less than 3,000 migrants have applied for temporary work permits. Also, at the moment, none of those who already applied have been granted work authorization.

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Fewer Venezuelans Are Applying to Work

Out of the 2,100 applications submitted, only 300 were submitted by Venezuelan migrants. The numbers point out a need for the government to do more to make the demographic a priority and make the process smoother for them.

An illustration of people waiting in line

Source: Freepik

This is because Venezuelan migrants have unique challenges and conditions that require dedicated assistance.

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Venezuelan Migrants Are Not a Priority

A recent City Council Committee on Immigration hearing showed that Venezuelans were not being considered a priority at the migrant center. There was a lot of emphasis on the need for immediate action, considering that there was no more room for fresh applications for assistance.

A group of migrants waiting in line

Source: International Organization for Migration

Speaking on the matter, Masha Gindler, the executive director of the Asylum Application Help Center, explained that the center was already at capacity throughout the month of October in terms of appointment bookings. She also lamented that it’s impossible for the center to take on any more new clients at the moment.

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A Move to Encourage More Applicants

Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The Department of Labor’s ongoing assessment is a positive move that is expected to provide more information about the migrants who are eligible to work in New York. It’s also expected to streamline the process of booking appointments at the center.

An individual filling a form with a pencil

Source: Adobe Stock

Although there are currently various challenges, the aim is to ensure that all Venezuelans who qualify for the TPS program have appointments booked before the year runs out. If the plan succeeds, migrants stand to benefit, and it will also significantly improve the system of processing work authorizations.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel for Venezuelan Migrants

There are also concerns about the effectiveness of the existing system because of the low application rate and the city’s difficulty in making Venezuelans a priority.

Venezuelans hitchhiking on the side of a dirt road

Source: World Vision

Regardless, it is a good thing that there’s government concern about the employment rate of migrants in New York, and there’s work being done to ensure that the status quo evolves to favor both migrants and the great state of New York.

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