When — and how — can asylum seekers find work?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Now that nearly 80 asylum seekers are in Rochester trying to get settled in, what’s next? How do they start their new lives?

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says the issue with asylum seekers and access to employment is problematic. There are thousands of jobs available, but some laws would need to be changed before they can work here in the U.S.

“In many instances, these people have a skill; they’re willing to work,” said David Seeley, the executive director of Rochester Works. Dealing with an influx of people coming from another part of the world and helping them find jobs is nothing new for him.

“As long as it is legal for them to do so, we want to make sure they’re able to be members who can contribute to our community,” Seeley said.

But under a federal law, asylum seekers have to wait six months to work — after applying for asylum.
Governor Kathy Hochul is working to change that to 30 days.

“I can’t tell you how many business owners talk to me, and say can you send some of these migrants to me, so I can have them work in my company and my factory and my business?” Hochul has said.

A quick Google search to look at jobs available in Rochester shows over 19,000 jobs are available — something Bello says is a beneficial opportunity to seekers and business owners.

“We have thousands that are open right now in our region; there are jobs all across the state and we have people who are now calling Monroe County their home and want to work — and so this is a problem with federal law that is preventing them from getting employment,” Bello said.

Besides the federal law there are other employment barriers that make it hard for these asylum seekers to find jobs. Seeley explained some of the resources Rochester Works offers to line them up for success.

“In addition to employment services, teaching English as a Second Language classes is really a basic skill we can provide to a lot of non-English-speaking workers,” Seeley said.

According to the U.S. Job Reports, unemployment in Rochester went from 2.9% in May to 3.1% in June.

As far as the plan to get these asylum seekers work, County Executive Bello says they are lobbying to have the law changed.