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Cape Chamber calls on feds to expedite migrants' work permits

Sarah Mizes-Tan

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce is calling on the federal government to expedite work authorization for migrants on the Cape, so they can work legally.

“The number one issue for most of our members, over the last three summers, has really been labor supply issues,” said Paul Niedzwiecki, CEO of the chamber. “Some of the hospitality businesses, certainly, feel that if we could expedite the authorization to work, that would be helpful.”

The Cape chamber was among 21 Massachusetts business groups to sign a letter this week to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, asking the government to expedite work authorization for migrants.

Gov. Maura Healey sent a similar letter earlier this month.

Undocumented migrants who apply for asylum are allowed to stay in the United States while their applications are pending, but getting work authorization can take more than a year, if not longer.

“People that are here legally should be able to work as soon as possible, because that would be helpful to our members,” Niedzwiecki said.

Cape Cod’s hospitality industry has relied on foreign-born workers for decades, through visa programs, he said.

The state has placed 27 migrant families at a Yarmouth motel, according to town officials.

Additional families have been sent to Bourne and Wareham.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration said it would grant temporary protected status to migrants from Venezuela who were in the United States prior to July 31 of this year. That should make getting work permits easier for the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard last September.

But it doesn’t apply to citizens of Haiti, who make up a notable portion of new arrivals to Cape Cod in recent weeks.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.