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Business leaders seek Washington’s help for NYC migrants 

Oto Godfrey | Wikimedia Commons

In an open letter released to President Joe Biden and Congress on Aug. 28, over 120 top business executives said the migrant crisis is “overwhelming” the resources of New York as well as city and state governments across the nation.

With signatures from top executives from Pfizer, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, Blackstone Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., Macy’s Inc. and many others, the letter was organized by a pro-business coalition, the Partnership for New York City, and intended to support the previous requests made in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s letter on Aug. 24 for federal funding towards educational, housing, security and health care services.

Over the past year, more than 101,200 asylum seekers have migrated to New York City alone, “coupled with the sustained arrival of hundreds, if not thousands, to the city every week,” according to Hochul. So far, the city and state officials have provided significant funding, staffing and case management for these arrivals. However, Hochul believes the demand they face “needs a much more urgent and vigorous federal response and direct financial assistance.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority spent over $2.3 million to provide free transportation services, while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidy programs, including Section 8, are beginning to be too overwhelmed to provide permanent housing for homeless individuals and families.

While unusual for top executives to weigh in on federal responsibilities like immigration policies and controls, businesses have incurred several costs, such as testing migrants for illnesses and diseases like COVID-19.

According to Partnership for New York City, ongoing labor shortages in many U.S. industries have also instigated the business community to be “prepared to offer training and jobs to individuals who are authorized to work in the United States and in-kind assistance and philanthropic support to organizations that are addressing the immediate needs of this largely destitute population.”

The proposed aid is not solely in the form of monetary funding. The first executive request was for expedited work permits. New York State is willing to provide job placement services to those who have applied for asylum and have work authorizations. Expediting work authorizations can be granted by way of temporary protected status, which allows migrants who cannot return to their home countries and need shelter and financial assistance to settle into communities more quickly.

The second executive request was for significant financial assistance as the state breached $1.5 billion of committed funds and predicted another $4.5 billion next year based on the current influx.

To date, the federal government has contributed $145 million to the effort. City and state officials called it “insufficient,” according to Mayor Eric Adams’ prediction that the amount could exceed $12 billion by 2025.

The third request addressed the urgent need for shelters at federally owned sites. Currently, shelters in New York have taken in 58,500 asylum seekers and migrants — a number growing by the thousands each week — with the city opening more than 200 shelters at state-owned facilities, including the Lincoln Correctional Facility in the Bronx and the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in Queens. 

The governor’s final request asked for $22 million to reimburse the state for deploying the National Guard. That is $22 million a month for 1,950 National Guard members to assist with humanitarian operations, an expense the federal government has in the past authorized reimbursement for by invoking Title 32 of the Code of Laws of the United States, which outlines federal statutes.

The majority of the asylum seekers have arrived from Venezuela, whose citizens’ status is uncertain and who lack authorization to work. Mostly men or some families with young children, they currently stand in need of both shelter and financial assistance. In early August, Bloomberg reported many migrants were sleeping on the streets in midtown.

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