Top CEOs call on Biden administration to address migrant influx in New York

ByMax Zahn ABCNews logo
Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Dozens of the nation's most prominent business leaders called for federal aid and speedy processing of work permits to address an influx of asylum seekers in New York City.

The arrival of more than 100,000 migrants from the southern U.S. border has pitted some local and state officials against President Joe Biden, setting off a high-profile dispute over proper treatment of the asylum seekers and who should pay for it.

More than 120 executives -- including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink -- signed a letter to Biden and Congressional leaders that characterized the New York business community as "deeply concerned" over the "humanitarian crisis."

The business leaders backed a request made by Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday calling on Biden to provide funds for the migrants' healthcare, transportation, education and housing costs as well as expedited work authorizations.

Government support for migrants will cost $12 billion over the next three years, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has also called for federal aid, said earlier this month.

The estimate came days after a line of migrants formed on the sidewalk outside of an intake center in midtown Manhattan at the Roosevelt Hotel. The migrants slept outside for days before they gained temporary shelter elsewhere.

In the letter published on Monday, top executives said responsibility for addressing the migrant crisis should fall entirely on the federal government.

"Immigration policies and control of our country's border are clearly a federal responsibility; state and local governments have no standing in this matter," the executives said.

A White House official told ABC News that the administration has led the largest expansion of lawful immigration pathways in decades and is committed to building a humane, safe and orderly immigration system.

The process for applying for asylum and applying for employment authorization based on an asylum application is established under current immigration laws and can only be changed by Congress, the White House official added. Federal law establishes a 180-day waiting period to obtain a work authorization.

Citing a persistent labor shortage, the executives said migrants bearing expedited work permits could access jobs in a host of industries.

The U.S. economy held 8.8 million job openings last month, data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday showed.

"Employers are prepared to offer training and jobs to individuals who are authorized to work in the United States," the executives said.

The call from executives arrived on the same day that reports surfaced of letters sent by the Biden administration to Adams and Hochul rebuking criticism that the federal government had fallen short in efforts to help address the crisis. Politico first reported on the letters.

Rather, the struggle to accommodate the asylum seekers owes primarily to "structural issues" of "governance and organization" in the day-to-day operations within the city and state, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly said.

Aiming for a comprehensive resolution, the executives on Monday called for "bipartisan action" in Washington D.C. but acknowledged that such a solution would "take time."

"In the interim, we urge you to take immediate action to better control the border and the process of asylum and provide relief to the cities and states that are bearing the burdens posed by the influx of asylum seekers," the executives said.

The letter drew backing from additional high-profile CEOs, such as Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Ernst & Young CEO Carmine Di Sibio and Citi CEO Jane Fraser.

It comes as business leaders face an increasingly fraught political environment as they weather Republican-led attacks over issues like socially conscious investing and diversity, equity and inclusion programs, former company executives and advocacy group leaders previously told ABC News, drawing on conversations with C-suite officials at large companies.

This month, a rating agency downgraded U.S. credit for the second time in the nation's history. Fitch Ratings cited the ballooning U.S. debt load and a weakening of governance, as well as the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, as considerations in their decision.

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