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Hochul shields migrants from labor disputes

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(The Center Square) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is moving to “shield” migrants from workplace retaliation and removal during labor disputes amid a record influx of asylum-seekers to the state.

Hochul announced Tuesday that the New York State Department of Labor has implemented a new process to protect undocumented workers from retaliation or deportation during labor disputes.

The new policy is being implemented as part of a partnership between the state government and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expanding on a procedure implemented earlier this year by the Biden administration.

Hochul said the changes will “not only help to protect the integrity of our labor investigations, but also the safety of vulnerable New York workers.”

“New York is proud to lead the nation in worker protections, and we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners to ensure that all workers enjoy their right to fairness and safety in the workplace – regardless of their immigration status,” the governor said in a statement.

Under the policy, the state works with Homeland Security to help workers gain temporary immigration protection while their employers are under investigation. It includes a process for undocumented workers to submit a “Statement of Interest” request to the state to investigate misconduct.

The Hochul administration says the new policy is also meant to encourage undocumented workers to report employer abuse if they are threatened with removal from the country or other forms of retaliation.

“Fear of retaliation is paralyzing for any worker, but it is especially dreadful for immigrants,” State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement. “We investigate all complaints, regardless of immigration status. We believe that all workers have rights in every workplace across New York state.”

The expanded policy comes as New York grapples with a massive influx of migrants following a surge of immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border over the past year. Some have arrived by bus and train from border states, with Republican governors sending migrants north to “sanctuary” states to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have asked the Biden administration for more federal funding to deal with the influx of migrants and to expedite work authorization for asylum seekers.

Currently, that process can take up to six months, which New York officials prevent new arrivals from getting jobs — as the state’s employers are struggling to find workers — and puts the cost of housing, food and other assistance on the backs of the state’s taxpayers.

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