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Expert: Courts "Very Likely" to Strike Down State Work Permits for Migrants

September 13, 2023 (1 min read)

Luis Ferré-Sadurní, New York Times, Sept. 12, 2023

"Frustrated by the federal response to the migrant crisis, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Tuesday that New York State was considering ways to issue work permits to asylum seekers in a bid to circumvent the long wait for permits at the federal level. Such a drastic step would make New York the first state to openly test federal law, underscoring the depth of a crisis that has sent over 100,000 migrants to New York City over the past year. The move, which would likely be challenged in court, could also escalate tensions between President Biden and Democratic leaders in New York, who have increasingly criticized his handling of the situation. “This would be unprecedented,” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference in her Manhattan office. “I believe the federal government believes that we need to have their authority to move forward with state work permits, but, as I’ve said, we have to let them work.” ... [I]mmigration law experts said that such a permitting system would run afoul of federal immigration law. “A court would be very likely to strike such a state permitting process down if it involves allowing private employers to use these state-issued work permits to hire recent migrants,” said Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University. Mr. Yale-Loehr and other immigration law experts have called for a different approach that they argue is allowed under federal law: having state governments hire asylum seekers directly. The University of California regents, for example, announced earlier this year that the university system would explore a way to hire students who lack legal status and work permits."