New York City Mayor Eric Adams wrapped up his four-day visit to Latin America on Saturday, advocating for the “right to work” for migrants in the United States.
During his stay in Necocli, a northern Colombian town often serving as a starting point for migrants venturing through the Darien jungle into Panama en route to the U.S., Mayor Adams emphasized the need for regional cooperation in addressing the immigration crisis affecting the Americas and U.S. cities like New York.
*Standing on a dock where migrants embark on boats towards the jungle, Mayor Adams called for nations in the region to unite in finding solutions to this pressing issue. He also urged the U.S. government to establish legal pathways for migrants and asylum seekers to work in the United States.*
“When you look at Colombia, they have truly demonstrated how to integrate individuals into their societies, and one of the most significant ways to do this is by allowing people to work,” Adams told reporters in Necocli. “There is nothing more humane or American than the right to work, and we believe this is a right we should extend.”
New York City has grappled with providing emergency accommodation for the tens of thousands of migrants arriving in the city this year. Adams, along with other city leaders, has called on the federal government to expedite work authorizations for those already in the city.
Unique legislation dating back to the 1980s obliges New York to offer shelter to anyone in need. Adams has expressed concerns that the cost of supporting migrants could soar to $12 billion over the next three years and has challenged the statute that mandates the city to provide shelter for migrants.
Mayor Adams also visited Ecuador and Mexico during his whirlwind tour, where he toured migrant shelters and engaged with local legislators. Following his stop in Mexico’s Puebla state, he emphasized that his city is “at capacity.”
“Our compassion knows no bounds, but our resources are limited,” Adams explained to reporters. “We do not want to place people in crowded shelters, and we do not want them to believe they will be employed.”
In Colombia, Adams clarified that his objective is not to dictate migrants’ choices but to understand their motivations and seek solutions to the immigration crisis. Over the past seven years, the South American country has welcomed 2.8 million migrants from Venezuela, granting them access to 10-year work permits, healthcare, and education.
However, despite Colombia’s efforts to regularize Venezuelan migrants, many are still heading to the United States, having struggled to rebuild their lives in countries like Colombia and others in South America, which are still recovering from the pandemic.
According to Panama’s National Immigration Service, over 200,000 Venezuelans have crossed the treacherous Darien Gap this year en route to the United States. For many, this marks the second or third move, having previously resided in South American nations like Colombia, Chile, and Peru.
This week, the Biden administration reached an agreement with Venezuela’s socialist government to resume direct deportation flights to Venezuela, stating that Venezuelans not eligible for asylum will be returned to their home country.
In Necocli, some Venezuelan migrants heading north expressed their determination to continue their journey towards the U.S. border despite the new policy.
“Entering the U.S. is also a matter of luck,” remarked Miguel Ruben Camacaro, a Venezuelan migrant traveling with his two children, who spent the night in a tent on Necocli’s beach. “We will pursue the dream until there are no other options.”