Mayor Eric Adams of New York City is fed up with providing a welcome for an influx of migrants seeking asylum. At a town hall meeting last week, he declared that spending on shelters and care, more than $5bn this year alone, “will destroy New York City”.

After more than 107,000 migrants arrived over the last year, almost 60,000 are still living in some 200 city shelters. The system was already strained; now it’s overwhelmed. Adams, a Democrat, has been haranguing Joe Biden on one issue in particular: he wants faster authorization for asylum seekers to work legally, so they can become self-supporting and move off city services.

As a presidential election year approaches, immigration is once again a political cudgel, and Democrats are fearful they will suffer at the polls. In late August, Kathy Hochul, the New York governor, joined the rising clamor from Democrats, meeting with officials at the White House. Maura Healey, the governor of Massachusetts, declared a state of emergency over migrants arriving in the state.

After many months when federal officials were reluctant to engage the prickly problem, the White House relented, with a solution that had been hiding in place.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants, officials said, were already eligible to apply for work permits. They had entered the country on a temporary permission known as parole, which allows them to avoid a 180-day waiting period for work permits that the law requires for migrants pursuing asylum cases.

On 1 September, the Department of Homeland Security began texting tens of thousands of migrants in New York City and around the country, alerting them that they could apply right away for work permits, prominently advertising something legal experts in the administration had long known.


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