New York City sent a clear message to the White House on Thursday.

Mayor Eric Adams, along with other city officials and labor unions, held a rally calling on the federal government to allow the thousands of asylum seekers in the city to work.

“What do we want? Work permits! When do we want it? Now!" the crowd chanted at the rally. 

What You Need To Know

  • Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials called on the White House to expedite work permits for migrants on Thursday

  • Adams and other officials say migrants want to provide for themselves — and not rely on city resources

  • An asylum seeker has to wait at least 150 days after applying for asylum to then apply for work authorization

  • More than 104,000 migrants have come to the city, with nearly 60,000 in the city's care

Currently, a migrant must wait at least 150 days after they apply for asylum to then apply for a work permit. Officials say migrants are ready to provide for themselves and their families.

“When I spent the night in the asylum [Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center] that we created and spoke to the asylum seekers, they were clear. 'We don’t want your free food, we don’t want your free bedding, we don’t want your healthcare, we just want to work,'” Adams said at the rally. 

Adams called out the Biden administration and their lack of help on the issue.

“This is what we’re saying to our national leaders: It is mandatory that this government, on a national level, respond to this fight,” Adams said.

The mayor's rally brought together a coalition of officials who don’t normally agree on many issues. In attendance were Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, City Comptroller Brad Lander and state Sen. Jessica Ramos.

“I believe there are political reasons why this is not happening. I believe it is the wrong political calculus,” Williams said about his thoughts on a lack of a federal response.

He went on to say that not helping New York amid the influx of migrants could cost political capital.

“'Cause while the White House might be okay in New York, you may end up losing congressional seats because of what you do, and we will lose the House again,” the public advocate said.

Ramos said she would be supportive of state lawmakers going back to Albany to potentially help the situation.

“I would be supportive of a special session to deal with the housing crisis that has only been exacerbated by the high cost of living, and of course as we are adding more people to our grid,” Ramos said. 

At many points in the rally, asylum seekers themselves talked about their need and want to work. Some advocates said that the city has thousands of unfilled jobs.

“That is more than 10,000 jobs in New York City restaurants that are posted online right now,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director for the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “They want to work. Restaurants want to hire folks, provide opportunity….”

One rally attendee, who said he runs construction trainings, said asylum seekers want to provide for themselves.

“They want to work, to get their own money so they can eat whatever, and make their own choice. And stay in their own place, not around a lot of people they don’t even know,” Yovanny Garcia said.

There are nearly 60,000 asylum seekers in the city’s care. Meanwhile, officials have helped file over 1,300 asylum seeker applications.