QUEENS, N.Y. (PIX11) — For months, there has been a push to get expedited working papers for the more than 110,000 migrants who have recently come to New York City.
However, there are, in fact, some already working legally, thanks in no small part to a tremendous amount of support from the city, nonprofits and religious groups.
Mayor Eric Adams’ Office of Immigrant Affairs referred PIX11 to one such individual.
Along a bustling stretch of Jamaica Avenue in Queens, the American Dream is just beginning for so many hustling food delivery drivers. Sitting atop a red motor scooter, you’ll find the infectious smile of Abraham Espinoza.
Espinoza will work 12 hours a day just to make $150-$200. He also volunteers at a local church when he can.
“What don’t I do?” He joked in Spanish.
He told PIX11 about fleeing an oppressive regime in Venezuela, spending some time in Brazil and making the three-month journey to the U.S. southern border.
As soon as immigration officials released him into the country in August of 2022.
Espinoza got himself to New York City. He connected at the Port Authority with a staff member from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
She pointed him to the Resource Navigation Center opened last year, and from there, he was connected with free legal services and a church that helped him navigate the complicated asylum process.
He praised God and the city for the help he had received.
It took Espinoza three months with all that support just to get the paperwork right.
“I could not do it by myself because I do not have the knowledge,” he confessed, reflecting back on the process.
After five months in a shelter, he moved in with two others he now refers to as “brothers” due to the ordeal they have all been through.
Just this past July, eight months after filing for asylum, his temporary working papers came through. Essentially, this means he has a social security number and will pay taxes.
Espinoza said even with his struggle, he realizes he was fortunate.
Most migrants are not legally working right now because of how cumbersome the asylum process is. City officials have been begging the White House to give temporary protected status to newly arrived migrants, which would move things along.
The City and nonprofits have resources in place to try and help absent any federal action.
Sunday on PIX on Politics, Immigration Commissioner Manuel Castro was asked if people are “falling through the cracks.”
He said the City’s immigration law community had its hands full before the crisis, and this issue of work is another area where the Feds need to step up.
With 10,000 new arrivals each month, the critique has become familiar from the city officials. However, some critics have argued that the city is doing too much and inviting people to come here and skip the legal immigration line.
Back in Jamaica, Queens, Espinoza claimed a DoorDash order and marched into a nearby chicken joint.
With the rev of an engine, he’s off to chase his American dream with a message for all those questions why he’s here:
“It does not matter where you come from,” he said. “If you’re from one country or another country, we all have the responsibility to help each other.”
According to the latest federal numbers, there are around 450,000 jobs open in New York. There are more than 8.5 million nationwide.
In the meantime, the city is on track at this pace to spend about $12 billion to support migrants over the next few years, with many still not being able to support themselves.