U.S. reminds migrants to apply for work permits following pressure from city officials

U.S. reminds migrants to apply for work permits following pressure from city officials

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The Biden administration on Thursday sent notifications to tens of thousands of migrants across the U.S. reminding them to apply for work permits, a move taken in response to intensifying pressure from officials in New York and other cities struggling to house new arrivals.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started sending emails and texts to migrants who are eligible to apply for work authorization with the agency, including asylum-seekers and those who arrived in the U.S. under programs the Biden administration created to discourage adults and families from crossing the southern border without authorization.

“You are receiving this message because you were paroled into the U.S. You can apply for a work permit online,” reads the notification, which includes a link to the USCIS work authorization application. 

Naree Ketudat, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees USCIS, confirmed the department had “launched a first-of-its-kind national campaign for noncitizens who are work-eligible but have not yet applied for employment authorization.”

The notifications are being sent to migrants who entered the U.S. under a process that allows Americans to sponsor the entry of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, as well as those processed at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border after securing an appointment through a government phone app. The Biden administration has been processing both populations under the immigration parole authority, which allows migrants to work and live in the U.S. legally on a temporary basis, typically for two years.

Migrants who’ve filed asylum cases will also receive a version of the notification if their cases have been pending for at least 150 days. U.S. law only allows asylum-seekers to receive work permits 180 days after they submit their applications.

“You are receiving this message because you applied for asylum and might soon be eligible to apply for a work permit,” the notification for asylum-seekers reads.

The public messaging campaign was agreed to during a White House meeting Wednesday between top Biden administration officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat who has called for the federal government to help the state accommodate tens of thousands of migrants.

The White House also committed to deploying “teams” to help migrants apply for work permits and exploring ways through which federal agencies can support new arrivals with housing, health care and educational needs.

The announcement follows months of pressure from Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other local Democratic leaders who’ve called on the Biden administration to find ways to help migrants obtain work permits, so they can stop relying on local shelters and services. New York City alone is housing 60,000 migrants in over 200 hotels, tents and other facilities, including an airport hangar. 

Thursday’s messaging campaign could alleviate some of the local criticism, given its scope. 

More than 200,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans have arrived in the U.S. since October 2022 under the sponsorship policy, according to internal DHS data obtained by CBS News. Moreover, 180,000 migrants were processed at ports of entry after securing appointments through the CBP One government app between January and the end of July, DHS figures show. Nearly 300,000 additional migrants have been released with court notices this year after crossing into the U.S. illegally, according to federal data.

Still, the notifications are unlikely to entirely extinguish local calls for more federal action. Officials in New York, Chicago and other Democratic-led jurisdictions have repeatedly pushed the Biden administration to grant migrants who were not paroled into the country temporary legal status, so they can apply for work permits without filing an asylum application and waiting 180 days.

Concerned about lawsuits and potentially encouraging more people to cross the southern border unlawfully, the Biden administration has resisted calls to grant migrants already in the U.S. legal status, CBS News reported earlier this month.

Since the end of the Title 42 pandemic-ea border restrictions in May, the Biden administration’s migration strategy has relied on directing tens of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. legally each month, while imposing higher asylum standards for those who enter the country illegally.

The administration credited those policies for a two-year low in illegal border crossings in June. But the number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally rose by 33% in July and has continued to increase in August, despite extremely hot temperatures in the southern U.S.

Earlier this week, DHS officials said they’ve identified 11 federal sites in New York that local officials can use to house migrants. The department has also pledged to offer New York City and other cities receiving migrants hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid.

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