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Federal shutdown could stall NY’s efforts to get migrants work permits, Hochul says

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference on Sept. 26, 2023, in the Red Room at the State Capitol.
Mike Groll
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference on Sept. 26, 2023, in the Red Room at the State Capitol.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that if there’s a federal government shutdown, it may slow progress on a new program aimed at easing the state’s migrant crisis.

Hochul said her administration has been working with the Biden administration on how to implement a program granting Temporary Protected Status to thousands of Venezuelan migrants so they can begin applying for jobs.

The governor said a Tuesday cabinet meeting included the president’s top adviser, Tom Perez, who outlined the timetable for starting the process that could lead to the granting of temporary work permits in as little as 30 days instead of the six-month waiting period for most asylum-seekers.

Hochul said before the Venezuelans can be granted TPS status, the change in the regulations first need to be published in a federal register.

“Those who were expecting to start the next day will be a little disappointed,” Hochul said.

But she said the bigger potential obstacle is the possible federal government shutdown, which will occur on Sunday if there’s no agreement in Congress on a new spending plan.

Hochul said while the Department of Homeland Security, which administers border control, is considered essential and would not be shuttered, there are a few dozen federal workers who have been sent to New York by the Biden administration to help implement the TPS program.

“We literally just opened yesterday, in a state-paid-for facility, 50 or 60 federal workers who have come to help us with the asylum processing and identification and getting new work authorization,” Hochul said.

She said it’s unclear whether those workers would have to be sent home. She said they also might need to contact staff at the federal Department of Labor to obtain the work permits, and those offices could be closed as well.

Hochul said a shutdown would also furlough about 51,000 federal workers in the state and delay food programs for poor women and children. She said it could also negatively affect one of New York’s biggest industries, the financial sector, and cause a stock market decline.

The governor, a Democrat, took a shot at Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives, saying she blames them for the budget stalemate.

“Republicans in Washington are reckless. Their words have an impact,” she said. “It's not positive news when the markets and the rest of the world and investors and everyday people hear that they have individuals representing our nation in Washington who are willing to bring us to the brink once again and literally jump off the cliff.”

Hochul said she and her staff are closely monitoring the situation.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.