More than 40 mayors and county executives from around the country are calling on the federal government to extend work authorizations for illegal migrants, saying that without the measures thousands will lose their jobs, businesses will suffer and districts will find it harder to cater to new asylum seekers.
The elected officials – which include New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson – wrote a letter on Monday to Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou, calling for automatic extensions for existing work permits of at least 540 days.
Historically, migrants have been granted a 180-day grace period if their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) renewal application is still pending.
In 2022, USCIS extended the 180-day grace period to 540 days due to lengthy processing delays.
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That extension expired on Oct. 26 and now the mayors are requesting a “permanent automatic extension of work authorization” in the form of an interim final rule that extends work permits for 540 days or longer.
“Without this, hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers will lose their work authorization, businesses will lose staff, and our cities and counties will face an increasing challenge to provide shelter to the public,” the mayors and county executives wrote.
“If DHS does not address this impending crisis, local economies will suffer additional harm in the face of large job losses.”
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The signees wrote that local businesses are still struggling to address the current labor shortage and cannot handle further disruptions to their operations by losing immigrant workers.
“We are concerned that the lengthy delays in adjudicating renewal applications for work authorization have not improved.”
They wrote that as of June 2023, there were approximately 263,000 EAD renewal applications pending.
Given these delays, they wrote, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will likely experience a lapse in their work authorization in the coming months.
“As a result, cities and counties are bracing for similar events to transpire, and we are already hearing from businesses who may soon be forced to lay off their workers until their renewed EADs arrive.”
The officials also wrote that if extensions are not granted it will “significantly impact our ability to receive newly arrived asylum seekers.”
“Cities and counties across the United States are quickly running out of shelter space. If hundreds of thousands of already-employed immigrants lose their jobs, they are likely to lose their homes, and this will result in cities and counties experiencing even greater difficulty providing shelter space and additional services to the public,” the letter reads.
“If DHS does not implement a permanent change to the automatic extension, any temporary extension should be for a period of no less than three years, to allow sufficient time for USCIS to work through the extensive work permit renewal backlog. We ask that you act swiftly so that the communities we represent do not experience the destabilizing effects of immigrant workers falling out of the workforce.”
The signees are part of a group called the Cities For Action (C4A), made up of nearly 180 U.S. mayors and county executives who advocate for “humane immigration policies that strengthen their cities and reflect the nation’s values of inclusion and opportunity.”
Adams, who has criticized the federal government’s response to the crisis, saying it would destroy New York City, said the migrants have a right to work in the Big Apple. At least 170,000 illegal migrants have arrived in New York since the spring of 2022.
“New York City thrives on the diverse and dedicated contributions of these community members and stripping people of their right to work is simply un-American,” Adams said in a statement accompanying the letter.
“I’m hopeful the federal government acts swiftly to protect the stability and security of hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers and their families.”
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Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, who last week announced cuts to public services to help fund the cost of his city’s migrant crisis, also signed the letter. About 40,000 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in Denver over the past year, and more than 3,500 are living in city-funded hotel rooms, according to the Colorado Sun.
“Over the past few weeks, Denver has seen record-high numbers of migrants arriving in our city, and very few have the ability to work and make a living for their families,” said Johnston.
“This has created simultaneous humanitarian and fiscal crises for our city, forcing us to look at significant budget cuts and reduction in services. We know that the ability for migrants to work is critical to Denver’s success, and it is imperative that DHS take immediate action to prevent even more migrants from losing their work authorization.”