Earlier this week, the New York Business Council sent a letter to the state's congressional delegation calling for their support for legislation that would reduce the wait time of 180 days that asylum seekers must wait before they become eligible to work in the United States. Heather Mulligan, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State, told Capital Tonight that the immigration system is a “mess,” but changes to the waiting period for asylum seekers is an “opportunity” for asylum seekers and employers.

According to statistics from the state Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in the state was at 3.8%, which is slightly higher than the nationwide rate of 3.4%. The strong labor market has led to a worker shortage. Mulligan says, “we have record low employment and we have a labor market that’s struggling to find people. At the same time, we have folks seeking asylum who are sometimes being bused here by other states who are actually looking for work and they want to work.”

Without changes to the statute, employers who may be willing to hire an asylum seeker risk breaking federal rules if the 180 days have not passed. Allowing these people to work by lowering the waiting time could lessen the burden to municipalities who are housing these migrants, according to Mulligan. Mulligan says manufacturers and the hospitality sector are some of the industries struggling to find staff.