Struggle for Work Permits Intensifies Among Immigrants in the US

by Ethan Kim
Immigration Tensions

In the bustling city of New York, frustration mounts among migrants in city shelters as earlier settlers, their own kin, decline to provide them shelter. Over in Chicago, a mental health service provider, initially catering to undocumented residents, is now focusing on newcomers who find refuge at a nearby police station. Meanwhile, in South Florida, there’s a growing discontent among some immigrants who see newer arrivals gaining access to work permits that remain elusive to them.

This scenario is replicated nationwide, with various local leaders advocating for the newly arrived migrants seeking shelter and work permits. Such advocacy, coupled with existing immigration laws, has heightened tensions between long-term immigrants without work permits and the newly arrived who seem to enjoy certain privileges.

The issue reached a crescendo this month in Washington, where thousands of immigrants rallied, demanding President Joe Biden to extend work authorization to long-standing residents. Their placards voiced their long wait: “Work permits for all!” and “I have been waiting 34 years for a permit.”

Despite the implementation of new asylum restrictions in May, illegal border crossings from Mexico have exceeded 2 million for the second consecutive year, as of the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30. In addition to this, new policies have legally admitted hundreds of thousands of migrants, attempting to curb illegal entries.

U.S. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García from Chicago highlighted the complexities and emerging tensions in immigration advocacy due to these recent arrivals. In his largely Latino district, there are many who have been awaiting legal residency and a path to citizenship for years.

Asylum seekers are required to wait six months for work authorization, a process that is completed within 1.5 months for 80% of applicants, as per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Conversely, those entering via the Biden administration’s new legal pathways have no such waiting period. Through parole, 270,000 individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have entered since October, with another 324,000 securing entry through the CBP One mobile app.

The administration aims to reduce work permit processing times to 30 days for those using these new pathways. By late September, over 1.4 million emails and texts were sent to remind eligible individuals about their work authorization.

José Guerrero, a Mexican immigrant who has been working in the U.S. for 27 years, expressed his desire for equal treatment, lamenting that newer immigrants receive more straightforward assistance.

The White House has requested $1.4 billion from Congress to support the new arrivals, while mayors from major cities like New York and Los Angeles have sought $5 billion, citing budget strains and service reductions.

Despite the challenges, many organizations and cities are striving to balance support for both long-term residents and new arrivals. For instance, the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, North Carolina, asserts its ability to serve all immigrants, while the Latin American Association in Atlanta has invested significantly in aiding newcomers, without sensing any resentment from their regular clients.

However, the sense of unfair treatment persists among some long-established immigrants. A Mexican woman in Homestead, living in the U.S. for 25 years with her U.S.-born children, voiced her frustration over the preferential treatment towards new arrivals.

The rallying cry in Washington is a testament to the growing call for a more inclusive work permit policy, reflecting the tensions and challenges within the immigrant community.

Reported by Tareen from Chicago, with contributions from R.J. Rico in Atlanta, Elliot Spagat in New York, and Erik Verduzco in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Immigration Tensions

Why are there tensions among immigrants in the US regarding work permits?

Tensions arise due to disparities in work permit accessibility between long-term immigrants and new arrivals. While new migrants, particularly those entering under recent legal pathways, often face no waiting period for work authorization, those who have been in the country for years or decades without legal status find it difficult to obtain the same permits. This discrepancy has led to frustrations among both groups, with established immigrants feeling overlooked and newer arrivals facing challenges integrating into communities.

What actions have been taken in response to these immigration tensions?

In various cities across the US, local leaders and mayors have been advocating for the rights of newly arrived migrants. Thousands of immigrants have also rallied in Washington, D.C., calling for President Joe Biden to extend work authorization to long-standing residents. The Biden administration is working to reduce wait times for work permits and has requested significant funding from Congress to support new arrivals with essentials like food and shelter.

How are immigrant service organizations responding to the influx of new arrivals?

Many immigrant service organizations across the US are adapting to serve both long-standing residents and new arrivals. For example, in Chicago, the Latino Treatment Center, initially aiding undocumented immigrants, has expanded its services to new migrants. Other organizations, like the Latin American Coalition in North Carolina and the Latin American Association in Atlanta, are balancing their resources to cater to the needs of both groups without any reported resentment from their core clients.

More about Immigration Tensions

  • Immigration Tensions in the US
  • Advocacy for Migrant Rights
  • Challenges in US Immigration Policy
  • Disparities in Work Permit Access
  • Impact of New Arrivals on Local Services
  • Nationwide Rallies for Immigration Reform
  • Role of Local Governments in Immigrant Support
  • Legal Pathways and Work Authorization Issues
  • Immigrant Organizations Adapting to New Challenges
  • Funding Requests for Migrant Support Services

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Mike87 December 3, 2023 - 1:44 am

wow, this article really hits home how complicated immigration issues are in the US, seems like there’s no easy fix for anyone involved.

JennyBee December 3, 2023 - 6:17 am

i’m surprised at the numbers mentioned in the article, 2 million illegal crossings? that’s huge! and the new policies, how are they actually helping?

RickTheWriter December 3, 2023 - 8:44 am

the part about the rallies in Washington shows just how passionate people are about this, It’s more than just politics, it’s peoples lives at stake here.

Anna_in_TX December 3, 2023 - 10:28 am

It seems like the system really needs an overhaul. Both groups, the old timers and the newcomers, have valid points. Why can’t there be a fair solution for all?

SandraK December 3, 2023 - 11:52 am

Its interesting to see how different cities are handling the influx of migrants, but I can’t help but feel for those who’ve been waiting years for the same opportunities.


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