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Mayor Adams, Bipartisan Coalition of 40 Other Mayors Renew Call for Work Authorization for Immigrants

May 24, 2024

Letter Comes as U.S. Senate is Considering Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Follows Extensive Mayoral Advocacy for Expanded Work Authorization

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson today led a coalition of 40 Cities for Action (C4A) mayors and county executives in calling for over 2 million work authorizations for both recent arrivals and longstanding undocumented immigrants, in the absence of long-awaited comprehensive reform by Congress. The bipartisan letter to the Biden-Harris administration can be viewed online.

“New York City is living proof that ‘The American Dream Works’ — our city wouldn’t be the greatest city in the world without generations of immigrants who have rolled up their sleeves and worked to shape this city,” said Mayor Adams. “But we know that the only way to make the American Dream work is if we let people work, because work is the foundation of that dream. In the absence of any long-overdue comprehensive reform by Congress, expanded work authorization for immigrants is a win-win-win: it allows immigrants to do what they came to this country to do and provide for their families, it prevents exploitation of workers, and it relieves some of the financial and logistical burden that shelter systems across the country have been under.”

“Chicago and Illinois are home to 320,000 undocumented Mexicans and Guatemalans, and 40,000 undocumented Haitians, Jamaicans, and Nigerians, and despite their lack of work authorization, they greatly contribute to our economies and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Johnson. “We continue to urge the federal government to use every tool at its disposal to support undocumented residents and new arrivals by giving people the ability to work, support their families, and contribute to our communities.” 

Extending work authorization to both newly arrived and longstanding immigrants would be an economic benefit to the entire nation. Authorized work leads to higher wages and reduced exploitation, enhancing workplace safety and dignity. By extending work authorizations, the Biden-Harris administration can take a significant step towards supporting these valuable community members who contribute extensively to the U.S. workforce and economy. This initiative is supported by more than 80 members of Congress; the American Business Immigration Coalition’s more than 300 employers, CEOs, and associations; as well as labor organizations like UNITE HERE, the Teamsters, and United Auto Workers.

Since this asylum seeker humanitarian crisis began, New York City has taken fast and urgent action — opening more than 200 emergency shelters to provide a roof over the heads of migrants. The city has also stood up navigation centers to connect asylum seekers with critical resources; enrolled tens of thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms; and launched the Asylum Application Help Center, which has already helped submit more than 50,000 applications for asylum, work authorization, and temporary protected status. Last August, Mayor Adams hosted “The American Dream Works” — a rally with hundreds of asylum seekers, union members, business leaders, and elected officials calling for expanded work authorization for asylum seekers. Last year, the city released “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” detailing how the city will continue to manage the influx of asylum seekers and advocate for support from federal and state partners.

“It is imperative to expand the availability of Employment Authorization Documents to our long-term immigrant residents, as they have always been the backbone of the American workforce,” said Bellevue, Pennsylvania Mayor Val Pennington. “We rely on these workers to provide the labor that keeps our country moving, as much as they rely on that work to provide for themselves and their families.”

“As the Mayor of North Miami, a city enriched by the diversity of cultures brought by immigrants, I strongly advocate for expanding Employment Authorization Documents. In our beloved city, we recognize the invaluable contributions of our immigrant community,” said North Miami, Florida Mayor Alix Desulme. “Granting EADs to our long-term immigrant residents is not just an act of justice; it is a crucial step toward harnessing the full potential of our community. This policy change would empower countless individuals with the right to work legally, thereby fostering economic growth, enhancing public safety, and promoting the inclusive, vibrant spirit that defines North Miami.”

“Providence’s diverse immigrant population contributes to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods, our unique local businesses, and our world-class restaurants,” said Providence, Rhode Island Mayor Brett P. Smiley. “I am proud to join my colleagues in encouraging the Department of Homeland Security to streamline the process for work authorization for Providence’s long-term and recent arrival immigrant residents. There is a clear consensus amongst leaders across the country that our immigrants add immeasurable value to our communities, and it is important that we prioritize their safety and well-being by extending their work permits.”

“Our communities are strengthened by the innovation, hard work, and creativity of immigrants,” said Somerville, Massachusetts Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “Somerville is proud to be home to generations of immigrants as well as newcomers who have built their lives here, raised families, started businesses, and pushed our city forward. We will only grow stronger with the opportunities that work authorizations grant. Our neighbors are here to work and we need them more than ever.”

“Work authorization for long-term immigrants and recent arrivals to the United States is an essential component to addressing and mitigating the impacts of asylum seekers in our communities. Tukwila is a small city just south of Seattle that has become the epicenter in the Pacific Northwest for immigrants seeking a better life in America,” said Tukwila, Washington Mayor Thomas McLeod. “Many of the individuals want to work to support their families, but can’t due to a variety of federal restrictions. The inability to get a job greatly impacts the ability of these migrants to secure housing. As a result, families are forced to rely on assistance from local agencies, which are already strained due to this crisis, or forced to sleep outside. I strongly encourage the federal government to act to remove these restrictions quickly. It’s critical we work together to provide migrants and our communities with the tools necessary for all of us to succeed.”

“As the mayor of the largest conservative city in America and from a border state, I urge President Biden to issue work permits to long term immigrants so we can fully unlock their potential and contributions to our community and economy,” said Mesa, Arizona Mayor John Giles.

“Employers welcome the president's actions to provide work permits for new migrants who are now working and contributing,” said Rebecca Shi, executive director, American Business Immigration Coalition. “We urge the president to also extend the dignity of a legal work permit for people picking our crops, emptying bedpans and cleaning hotel rooms for more than 10 years.”


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