The state Department of Labor has identified 39,456 jobs open to migrants and asylum seekers in New York, but does not keep track of who is hired, as state officials wait for the federal government to reach a deal on immigration reform.

Thousands of employment opportunities available to migrants in each region of the state feature openings in the health care, manufacturing, retail, food service, construction and cleaning or janitorial industries, according to the department.

To date, 1,016 businesses statewide responded to an inquiry the department made earlier this fall for employers willing to hire undocumented New Yorkers with legal work status.

"This is what we do," DOL spokesman Beau Duffy said in a statement Monday. "Helping people find careers is our specialty at the Department of Labor. This is an ongoing effort."


But state labor officials do not know the number of migrants hired for the job opportunities specified over the last several months.

"There is no requirement for employers or asylum seekers to report back to us if they have hired an asylum seeker or become employed," Duffy said.

Businesses tell the state the number of jobs they have available for migrants, but are not required to reserve the position for an asylum seeker.

People who arrive in the United States from other countries have one year to file a federal application seeking asylum, but then have to wait at least 150 days, or five months, to apply for a work permit.

More than 150,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since spring 2022, including about 67,000 that remain in the city’s care and a few thousand who relocated upstate.

Gov. Kathy Hochul directed the Labor Department to connect with businesses to identify job openings for asylum seekers to reduce the burden on shelters and social services — particularly sapped in the city and downstate metropolitan communities.

Labor officials work with immigrants with approved work permits to complete a work-readiness intake form, which is sent to DOL career counselors, who help people with their job search and leads.

"The state is actively helping asylum seekers with work authorization and with job-matching services," Duffy said.

Community organizations and nonprofits around the state work to connect new arrivals to legal assistance they need to file a case or for work permits, but a shortage of immigration attorneys is leading to long delays.

"We don't have a ton of immigration attorneys or experienced folks," Sara Lowry, associate director of legal services at U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said of upstate areas outside New York City.

Lowry's office, based in Albany, helped bus about 400 migrants to the Capital Region from the city this summer. It took two full-time attorneys in the office two years to work through a waitlist of about 400 evacuees from Afghanistan, she said, who arrived between February and October 2021.

"We've added some more as the time goes on, and more support help, but it took us two years," Lowry said. "So you multiply the same by other nationalities and different language barriers, it's going to be a long wait list."

Elected officials in New York have pushed for the work authorization process to change and put migrants to work more quickly, but the decision rests with the federal government.

In September, the federal government granted Temporary Legal Status to more than 15,000 Venezuelans in New York and more than 400,000 across the country, expediting the process.

Senate Labor Committee chair Jessica Ramos says state officials and members of New York's congressional delegation must fight louder to expand Temporary Legal Status to people arriving from more countries.

"Not only is the federal government not giving them working papers, now, they're being left to fend for themselves on the street," the senator said Monday.

Ramos wants to see New York City create a registry of new arrivals and a street vending system to help more people qualify to work. The senator will push for legislation to be included in the next budget to address these issues, including more funding to help migrants afford an attorney and expand workforce development programs for asylum seekers.

The senator recently visited Rochester and Buffalo to learn about labor issues and shortages across the state. She heard ideas like apprenticeship programs and ways to validate careers migrants had at home to help more legally enter the needy workforce — especially in health care and construction outside the city.

The state should give more information to U.S. Social Security Administration offices and the state Department of Motor Vehicles to process IDs for migrants more quickly, Lowry said.

"Immigrants populate low-populated areas; they buy homes; they spend money at stores; they contribute to the economy in much-needed ways," she added. And so if we wanted to look at it that way, they are huge assets to our community and to be welcomed."

More than half of upstate counties have issued local orders of emergency to prohibit the transfer of asylum seekers to their communities, but Ramos said it's time they step up and help shelter the newcomers to boost their sluggish local economies.

"We know that there are so many towns upstate who need workers, who need residents, so these are the New Yorkers of tomorrow, but we have to recognize that they're the New Yorkers of today," Ramos said.