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Many migrants who flooded into NYC are 'on the edge of despair' as they struggle to find work -- and stability

Josephine Stratman, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — Jesus O. was a skilled HVAC technician and business owner in Venezuela who thought his skills would easily secure him work when he came to New York last October amid a flood of migrants flowing into New York.

But now, each day, he wanders the streets looking for work.

“I have the experience. And I have the ability,” he said. “And there is this passion and desire to work. I’m just waiting for someone to let me work.”

More than 45,000 migrants have come to New York City since last spring, straining the city’s shelter system and sparking conflict over policy and funding between New York and Washington. Their journey here was treacherous: Nearly all of the migrants coming from the southern border waded through the Rio Grande, braved the dangerous stretch of jungle called the Darien Gap, walked for days on end and faced thieves and attackers.

But getting here was one thing.

Making a life here is another, and finding consistent work is nearly impossible for recent migrants.


“If I don’t have a job, I can’t just sit in the hotel, locked up, sleeping, doing nothing,” Jesus O. said. “I came to New York to work, to produce.”

The migrants The News spoke to said they are ready to start working. They want to build lives for themselves and support their families, especially after being bounced around the city’s shelter system and relying heavily on straining networks of nonprofits and volunteers.

However, their options are limited. While asylum seekers are legally allowed to work, federal policy requires they wait six months after they submit asylum applications to get a work permit. Mayor Eric Adams has called on Washington to loosen federal rules for asylum seekers to allow them to more quickly enter the workforce.

Even after the six months have passed, the legal system is so backed up that the process is all but guaranteed to drag on longer.


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