New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering "unprecedented" legislation that would have the state issuing work authorization for asylum seekers arriving by unyielding busloads from southern border states.
Hochul said she is talking to state Assembly and Senate leaders about what the bill would look like and whether it would be debated in a special session of the legislature or whether it could wait until lawmakers return to Albany in a few months.
"I spoke about this at the White House. I said I may do something at the state level," Hochul said. "This would be unprecedented."
The governor said her lawyers are discussing whether the state would need the federal government to sign off before any new law could take effect.
The Biden administration said there is already a "critical mass" of migrants able to obtain work permits but too few have applied.
"There's a critical mass that we are confident are eligible to apply for work authorization immediately," a senior administration official said during a call with reporters.
Hochul disputed it.
"I don't know what a critical mass is. I don't think it's a high number," the governor said.
The mayor's office said about a fifth of migrants in the city's care have filed asylum applications. The figure does not include those getting legal help from the nonprofit sector.
A spokesperson said the city is surveying all asylum seekers currently in its shelters to "determine who is eligible to apply for work authorization right now."
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom called the proposal "innovative."
She said the city consistently hears from private business that "having a permit to work, I think, that would be one of the biggest solutions to get out of the humanitarian crisis we find ourselves in."
Hochul said the state has no choice but to look into the feasibility of state-issued work permits, while acknowledging it would require federal approval.
"We are at a situation where the status quo will not hold any longer," she said, saying she tells the White House on near daily calls, "it's a federal problem, we need your help, do something."