Many Struggle for Work Permit 11/27 05:41
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- In New York, migrants at a city-run shelter grumble
that relatives who settled before them refuse to offer a bed. In Chicago, a
provider of mental health services to people in the country illegally pivoted
to new arrivals sleeping at a police station across the street. In South
Florida, some immigrants complain that people who came later get work permits
that are out of reach for them.
Across the country, mayors, governors and others have been forceful
advocates for newly arrived migrants seeking shelter and work permits. Their
efforts and existing laws have exposed tensions among immigrants who have been
in the country for years, even decades, and don't have the same benefits,
notably work permits. And some new arrivals feel established immigrants have
given them cold shoulders.
Thousands of immigrants marched this month in Washington to ask that
President Joe Biden extend work authorization to longtime residents as well.
Signs read, "Work permits for all!" and "I have been waiting 34 years for a
Despite a brief lull when new asylum restrictions took effect in May,
arrests for illegal border crossings from Mexico topped 2 million for the
second year in a row in the government's budget year ending Sept. 30.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been legally admitted to
the country over the last year under new policies aimed at discouraging illegal
"The growing wave of arrivals make our immigration advocacy more
challenging. Their arrival has created some tensions, some questioning," said
U.S. Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a Chicago Democrat whose largely Latino district
includes a large immigrant population. People have been "waiting for decades
for an opportunity to get a green card to legalize and have a pathway to
Asylum-seekers must wait six months for work authorization. Processing takes
no more than 1.5 months for 80% of applicants, according to U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration Services.
Those who cross the border on the Biden administration's new legal pathways
have no required waiting period at all. Under temporary legal status known as
parole, 270,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela arrived
through October by applying online with a financial sponsor. Another 324,000
got appointments to enter at a land crossing with Mexico by using a mobile app
called CBP One.
The administration said in September that it would work to reduce wait times
for work permits to 30 days for those using the new pathways. By late
September, it had blasted 1.4 million emails and texts reminding who was
eligible to work.
Jos Guerrero, who worked in construction after arriving 27 years ago from
Mexico, acknowledged many new arrivals felt compelled to flee their countries.
He says he wants the same treatment.
"All these immigrants come and they give them everything so easily, and
nothing to us that have been working for years and paying taxes," Guerrero, now
a landscaper in Homestead, Florida, about 39 miles (63 kilometers) south of
Miami. "They give these people everything in their hands."
The White House is asking Congress for $1.4 billion for food, shelter and
other services for new arrivals. The mayors of New York, Denver, Chicago, Los
Angeles and Houston wrote President Joe Biden last month to seek $5 billion,
noting the influx has drained budgets and cut essential services.
The mayors also support temporary status --- and work permits --- for people
who have been in the U.S. longer but have focused on new arrivals.
"All of the newcomers arriving in our cities are looking for the chance to
work, and every day we get calls from business leaders who have unfilled jobs
and want to hire these newcomers," the mayors wrote. "We can successfully
welcome and integrate these newcomers and help them pursue the American Dream
if they have a chance to work."
Many new arrivals are indisputably in dire circumstances, including some who
hoped to join relatives and friends but find their calls blocked and messages
Angel Hernandez, a Venezuelan who walked through Panama's notorious Darien
Gap rainforest, where he witnessed corpses, was sorely disappointed when he
reached New York. The construction worker said he and his aunt, uncle and their
two children left Colombia after more than three years because work dried up.
Hernandez, 20, planned to settle with his uncle's brother, who settled in
the United States about a year earlier and lives in a house with a steady job.
His job search has been fruitless.
"Everyone is out for themselves," he said outside the Roosevelt Hotel, a
Midtown Manhattan property that was closed until the city opened it for
migrants in May.
The influx has put many immigrant services groups in a financial bind.
For decades, the Latino Treatment Center has provided help with drug abuse
to many immigrants living in Chicago without legal status. It started helping
new arrivals sleeping at the police station across the street, fixing a shower
in the office for migrants to use a few days a week and offering counseling.
"It is such a unique situation that we weren't set up for," said Adriana
Trino, the group's executive director. "This has been a whole different
wheelhouse, the needs are so different."
Many organizations deny friction and say they have been able to make ends
"We're trying to keep a balance of doing both -- people who have been here
for years and people who are arriving, and so far we have been able to serve
everybody," said Diego Torres of the Latin American Coalition, which assists
immigrants in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Atlanta, the Latin American Association says it has spent $50,000 this
year on temporary housing and other aid for new arrivals. Santiago Marquez, the
organization's chief executive, hasn't sensed resentment.
"Our core clients -- most of them are immigrants -- they understand the
plight," he said. "They've gone through it. They understand."
Still, it's easy to find immigrants with deep roots in the United States who
chafe about unequal treatment.
A 45-year-old Mexican woman who came to the United States 25 years ago and
has three U.S.-born children said it was unfair that new arrivals get work
permits over her. She earns $150 a week picking sweet potatoes in Homestead.
"For a humanitarian reason, they are giving opportunities to those who are
arriving, and what is the humanity with us?" said the woman, who asked that she
be identified by her last name only, Hernandez, because she fears being
The Washington rally reflected an effort by advocates to push for work
permits for all, regardless of when they came.
"It is a system that has strained our city and, at this moment, it brings
conflict between neighbors." Lawrence Benito, head of the Illinois Coalition
for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said at a Chicago rally last month.