(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration has moved to provide hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants with work permits, meeting calls from New York and other cities strained by an influx of asylum seekers.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated Wednesday that 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived before July 31 will be eligible to work under the fresh Temporary Protected Status designation. The move, which protects the migrants from deportation, is part of a series of policies aimed at managing the growing number of arrivals at the US-Mexico border and in urban centers.
Democratic-led cities have sounded alarms for months about the cost of caring for migrants, many of whom arrive by buses dispatched from border states like Texas with no immediate prospects for legal work.
In New York, which by law can’t turn away those who need housing, Mayor Eric Adams’s administration estimates 10,000 asylum seekers are arriving each month, an influx that may cost an estimated $12 billion over the next three fiscal years. Venezuelans account for 40% of the asylum seekers currently in New York’s care, by far the largest share of any country, according to the Adams administration.
Adams thanked Biden for “taking this important step that will bring hope to the thousands of Venezuelan asylum seekers currently in our care,” according to a statement.
“I am hoping that this is the start of looking at all of the countries that are coming into New York City and the other municipalities,” Adams said on WABC-TV Wednesday. “I don’t believe any city should have to carry this national problem.”
Cities struggling to house new migrants who are overwhelming shelters, social services and already-stretched budgets have become a political issue for President Joe Biden.
Republicans accuse the president of fueling a surge at the border with welcoming policies, while immigrant-rights advocates fault him for not putting enough political capital behind a push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws earlier in his term.
The latest move will affect Venezuelans who arrived in the US between March 8, 2021, and July of this year. Within 30 days, DHS is also aiming to approve work permits for immigrants who entered the country under a pair of humanitarian parole programs established earlier this year. However, the new policies fall short of recent calls for DHS to eliminate a months-long waiting period for all asylum seekers to work. The agency says only Congress can change that.
The administration is also expanding a program that allows border officials to swiftly deport some immigrant families who have crossed the border and lack a basis to stay in the US. It is also sending 800 new active-duty military personnel to the border to assist with logistics, the department announced.
Eagle Pass, a Texas city of 30,000 along the Mexican border on the Rio Grande, has seen several thousand migrants arrive this week. It declared a state of emergency Sept. 19 “due to the severe undocumented immigrant surge into the city.” Officials said the declaration would pave the way for requesting extra financial resources to account for the additional services the migrants would require.
US Customs and Border Protection shut down vehicle crossings at one of the main bridges with Mexico on Wednesday, saying it would remain closed indefinitely due to the influx of immigrants.
Many of the new arrivals are being quickly released into the US because border detention facilities are near capacity, the Washington Post reported, citing unidentified Homeland Security officials. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday that federal officials had cut razor wire barriers in Eagle Pass intended to stop border crossings, but that he’d ordered the Texas National Guard to “repel illegal crossings” and install more razor wire.
Biden has defended his actions on immigration, saying he introduced legislation to address the issue on his first day in office. The administration says it is doing all it can to assist states and cities with the influx and puts the onus on Congress to fix the system.
The president requested $4 billion from Congress for border security and migration mitigation in an emergency spending measure. But that package faces an uphill road to passage, with the Republican-led House girding for a clash with Democrats on their own border demands as part of a fight over how to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
--With assistance from Brendan Walsh.
(Updates with comment from Mayor Adams in sixth paragraph, state of emergency in Texas starting in 11th paragraph)
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