Op-Ed | Workfare for New York’s migrants

Governor Kathy Hochul’s latest decision to open thousands of state jobs to asylum seekers is yet another in a long line of her betrayals to the people of this state.

According to the most recent information, as many as 4,000 jobs in the state government are going to be opened to migrants. To add insult to injury, last week, Politico reported that the administration intends to loosen “requirements like English language proficiency, education qualifications and certification” for these positions. Among these openings are clerical office jobs, entry-level engineering positions, and even “direct support aides” – individuals who, working with more experienced employees, would assist New Yorkers with physical and/or mental disabilities and document their responses to treatment programs.

These positions would be IDEAL for college students looking to find good, entry-level jobs following graduation. With so much talk going on about the crushing levels of debt that our college graduates are experiencing, one must wonder why Gov. Hochul has not created a direct SUNY-to-government pipeline to fill these vacancies and help our next generation to pay off their loans. These are the kinds of jobs that our young people need to build foundations in the working world and develop skills in their fields of choice, and many graduating students might not know these jobs even exist.

Instead of actively courting New York’s recent graduates and setting them up on a path to success, however, the powers that be in State government have instead decided to give these jobs to the migrants flooding into our cities.

If we really want to help the migrant population and make New York a better place for everyone, we should bring back the workfare programs of the past. Instead of simply handing out tens of millions of dollars in prepaid cards and then laughably asking migrants to promise that they will only purchase food and baby supplies with their new money, we should be putting these people to work in service of our city. In return for that work, we can provide them with stipends to live on.

This work would involve simple things to beautify our neighborhoods – street sweeping and litter pickups, for example. As it is now, City Councilmembers need to spend our discretionary funds to sponsor non-profits to do much of this work. While those nonprofits are excellent, there is never enough of them, and there are never enough funds to really cover our entire district. Enrolling our migrants into a workfare program that would have them cleaning our communities would be a benefit for everyone – the migrants would get money in their pockets, our city would be cleaner, and the workload being placed on our dedicated nonprofits would be lighter.

We don’t need to take jobs away from our young people to uplift the migrant population. Albany needs to do a better job at courting students and filling vacancies with recent grads. And they need to bring back workfare for our asylum seekers, so that the public can receive a direct benefit from the billions of dollars they are spending to support this incoming population. Workfare would be a win-win for all involved, and it boggles my mind that the Governor has not pursued this yet.

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