Assemblymember proposes state work permits for asylum seekers

By Published On: September 11th, 2023Categories: Capitol Notes

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar wants to circumvent federal rules slowing down when asylum seekers in New York are legally allowed to work.

The Queens Democrat said Monday in an interview with The Capitol Pressroom that she is introducing legislation authorizing the state Department of Labor to immediately issue work permits to anyone applying for asylum. Federal law prohibits employment authorization until 180 days after an asylum application is submitted and calls by New York officials to expedite this process have fallen on deaf ears in Congress and the White House.

“In the absence of federal action, to let asylum seekers work, the state will thereby take control and issue work permits on its own to migrants,” Rajkumar said.

As to whether such an action is constitutional, she acknowledged that the federal government is intended to lead on immigration laws and policies under the framing documents.

“In the absence of federal action, the state has to step up. This is a moment of crisis and it will be up to the courts to strike down our state law, authorizing work permits,” she said.

Rajkumar noted the economic benefits of letting migrants in New York work and described her bill is the “solution that everyone wants.” The second-term state lawmaker also introduced legislation this year that would prohibit counties from refusing to house asylum seekers coming from New York City and would create a statewide coordinator of asylum services.

A spokesperson for Governor Kathy Hochul said they would review the legislation, but did not immediately respond on Monday to whether the administration had already considered this avenue. In August, the governor announced an effort to ensure that migrants eligible to work are connected with interested employers around the state.

The full interview with Rajkumar, including a discussion about her other bills and the work of DocGo, will be published on Tuesday.