Asylum seekers in NYC plead for right to work

Yunaira Pirela, her husband, and their young son fled Venezuela seeking asylum in the United States. Now, however, they find themselves living in a South Bronx emergency shelter, unable to support themselves financially.

"We're frustrated because we can't work. We're not able to get out of the shelter system.  We want to be able to provide for ourselves.  We don't want the government here to give us anything," Pirela said through an interpreter. 

The frustration is one shared by many other asylum seekers in New York City, along with Mayor Eric Adams.

"They don't want our free shelter. They don't want free food. They don't want free clothing. They are saying can we work?" Adams said at a recent press conference.

After processing, it usually takes at least six months for asylum seekers to get work permits from the government allowing them to legally work in the U.S.

Mayor Adams says the city just cannot handle that wait time. He is urging President Joe Biden to sign an executive order allowing them to legally work immediately after processing, so they can support themselves and take some of the financial pressure off the city's resources.

"The President and the White House has failed New York City on this issue," Adams said. "The President of the United States can give us the ability to allow people to work."

City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and other New York congressional representatives joined immigration activists in Washington, D.C. to plead for help. 

"The money issues, it's real," said Williams. "It is unsustainable without the resources that we have to have."

According to Mayor Adams, this crisis is just the beginning and could ultimately destabilize the city. Title 42, which allowed the government to turn away migrants at the border, is set to expire next month, meaning thousands of people are waiting to cross the border and could potentially end up in New York City.