There are around 60,000 recent arrivals in New York City’s care, as migrants and asylum seekers continue to head or be bussed to the city from the southern border. Around four months ago, the first wave of migrant arrivals from the city began to call upstate New York their temporary home.
Amar Zeidan is one voice in a sea of many. While he was scared to speak, he bravely shared his story. He says he wants to raise awareness about his plight as an asylum seeker who, like so many others, wants to find honest work.
“It’s very difficult. Because without work, there isn’t a life. We left our countries to build a better life in the United States,” he said in Spanish.
Zeidan, who is from Mauritania, speaks Spanish, French and his native Arabic. He arrived in the U.S. in May through the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring asylum in August. He left his pregnant wife and 1-year-old daughter behind to try and forge a better life for his family.
He was one of the first people to arrive in upstate New York by way of New York City.
What You Need To Know
- There are around 60,000 recent arrivals in New York City’s care, as migrants and asylum seekers continue to head to the city
- Migrants in the state are working with case workers through DocGo to begin the asylum seeking process, which includes a waiting period of at least six months, sometimes longer, before they can receive work permits
- Amar Zeidan, one of the first to arrive upstate by way of NYC, says he is ready to work and provide for his family back home in Mauritania and to contribute to U.S. society, however, his life is at a standstill because he doesn't have a work permit and can't work
Zeidan said he feels disheartened about his prospects because his life is at a standstill, and he’s unable to provide for his family back home. He said he wakes up every day at 5 a.m., gets ready and takes a bus into Poughkeepsie to look for work, for hours. However, without a work permit, he hasn’t found anything.
His plea – to fast-track work permits for migrants – is being echoed around the state by some leaders. For months, Gov. Kathy Hochul has asked the Biden administration for help, including expediting work authorization for migrants.
“New Yorkers from across the state, Democrats and Republicans, have asked me for help placing these migrants into jobs, jobs that have gone unfilled for too long. We are ready to act as soon as these migrants receive work authorization,” she said at a press conference last week.
Asylum seekers must wait six months in order to get a work permit after filling out an application. The process itself can be much longer because of a severe backlog of immigration cases pending in the U.S. court system.
In a recent letter to New York leaders, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Biden administration is considering changes to make the process faster. However, it would take an act of Congress to change immigration laws allowing for fast-track work permits.
In the meantime, Zeidan is working on himself. He takes ESL classes in Poughkeepsie three times a week. While he was employed in his home country as an electrician, he said he’s ready to take on any work. He wants to begin his life in the United States, to get a job, pay taxes and contribute to society. His goal is to have a house of his own and bring his family over because he wants his children to get an education and have a brighter future.
“I miss my family so much," he said. "Every day, I’m thinking about them. They’re my motivation for being here, looking for a better life.”
Zeidan says the Hudson Valley community is tolerant and that he hasn’t faced any discrimination. He described the people as being “marvelous” and “kind.”
There’s a bipartisan bill in the Senate called the Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act that would shorten the waiting period from around six months to 30 days, as long as the person entered through a U.S. port of entry. And the House has a similar version of the bill.
Spectrum News 1 caught up with Rep. Marc Molinaro to ask him about whether or not he supports amending laws to fast-track work permits.
“What the governor is saying is that we should simply accept, the city of New York, ignoring local law, state law, the state constitution and that Congress should change the rules simply to accommodate the city continuing to export and transport humans souls to counties and communities that don’t have the resources and aren’t communicated or coordinated with," he said. "That’s not a solution.”
Molinaro says he supports a bipartisan approach to securing the border and streamlining the asylum seeking process.