With immigration setting the stage for political battles on the state and national level, one group of leaders is working to figure out how to best handle those who have arrived in New York in a bipartisan, non political way.

Those involved in the Ellis Island Initiative argue that can be done by recognizing their economic potential.

Lead Strategist Steven Choi told Spectrum News 1 that the statewide, bipartisan coalition of leaders is wrapping up a series of discussions across the state on how to best leverage that potential for the benefit of both those seeking asylum in the U.S. and state.

“We want to make sure that folks are really thinking about what is it that we can do, and how can we make sure that the arrival of these asylum seekers can play a big economic benefit to local communities and the state,” he said.

The discussions include government, business, nonprofit, faith and labor leaders.

Business leaders like Paul Zuber, executive vice president of the Business Council of New York State, say a primary solution is leveraging those new arrivals to fill a significant number of open positions that continue to remain unfilled. Advocates cite worker shortages across the state, including bus drivers, store clerks and health care positions.

“There are 470,000 unfulfilled jobs in New York state. What does that mean to business? Many of our businesses can’t expand. They don’t have enough people. We’re missing out on taxes for 470,000 people who could be gainfully employed,” he said.

The Ellis Island Initiative is looking to use the knowledge gained through those discussions to accomplish a list of objectives including engaging local non profits to provide the necessary assistance, organizing a coordinated workforce development strategy, and utilizing existing skills that migrants have to best benefit the workforce, among other goals.