NY Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie feeling out lawmakers on state-issued migrant work permits — ‘if it’s legal’


New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is polling rank-and-file lawmakers on whether they would support state legislation to provide work permits to migrants — indicating the controversial idea is getting serious consideration, pols told The Post.

“I did receive a call. The question was posed,” said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx). “I said, ‘Yes, I would look favorably on supporting such a bill.’

“However, I don’t know if it’s legal,” he said. “We’ll let the lawyers figure that out.”

Benedetto noted that the restaurants in his district are clamoring for workers.

“This is one way restaurants can get help,” he said.

Other Assembly insiders said the phone calls polling legislators were made by Albany staffers with the Assembly Office of Program and Counsel, which reports to the powerful speaker’s office.

“It was a temperature read on whether we would support legislation for migrant worker permits. I said I would consider the proposal,” said another Democratic Assembly member who requested anonymity.

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) is polling state legislators to see if they would support a bill that would give work permits to migrants.
Hans Pennink

The internal polling of Democrats who control the Assembly suggests momentum is growing to speed up work permits for migrants while they apply for asylum so that they don’t have to rely on government support, including expensive housing, to survive. 

Under federal law, the migrant work application process now takes a snail-like 180 days.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have pressed President Biden and Congress to shorten the approval process — but neither the White House nor Congress has responded.

Absent that, some New York legislators have floated the idea of passing a state law. 

A long line of migrants waiting at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan on September 15, 2023, to apply for federal services including work permits.
Seth Gottfried

Bills have been introduced by Democratic Assembly members Jenifer Rajkumar and Catalina Cruz of Queens and at least three Democratic state senators, Brooklyn’s Zellnor Myrie and Kevin Park and the Bronx’s Luis Sepúlveda.

During a White House briefing  last week, Biden administration officials said the issuance of work permits for migrants is clearly a federal responsibility from a legal perspective and discouraged states from acting unilaterally.

But Hochul said last week she is still considering state legislation to expedite work permits, although she agreed the state likely can’t do anything without the federal government’s blessing, such as a waiver.

A group of migrants from Africa waiting for work in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Jamaica, Queens, on September 19, 2023.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

Approving a state law, at the very least, could force Biden’s hand, sources said.

Federal tracking data between April 2022 and the end of this past July shows that more than 125,000 migrants headed to New York City during that time.

The city has opened more than 200 emergency shelters to handle the flood, with migrants now accounting for about half of the occupants in the city’s crammed shelter system.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have both called on the Biden administration to approve expedited work permits for the city’s migrants.
Seth Gottfried

Adams has called for 5% city agency budget cuts by November and up to 15% cuts this spring to address a projected multibillion-dollar budget gap exacerbated by the migrant crisis.

He said the hit on the city budget to assist migrants could reach $5 billion by the end of the current fiscal year and a staggering $12 billion by July 2025 unless the city receives additional financial assistance from Washington and Albany — or a reduction in migrants heading to the Big Apple from the southern border.

Heastie’s office had no immediate comment on the polling of legislators over migrant work permits.

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