Masbia Relief In Ready To work: Asylum Seekers On Staten Island Complete Training, Earn Free Pair Of Work Boots Through Local Organization

Posted on: November 13, 2022

Several asylum seekers hoping to enter the workforce in New York City took a big step forward with the help of one community-based organization.

On Sunday, La Colmena — which works to empower day laborers, domestic workers, and other low-wage immigrant workers of varying immigration status on Staten Island — held a graduation ceremony at its Stapleton headquarters for just over two dozen individuals who completed La Colmena-sponsored Occupational Safety and Healthcare (OSHA) and Site Safety Training (SST) courses. The courses — which necessitated 40 hours and 10 hours of class time, respectively — are legally required for those who wish to work on construction sites.

Each graduate also received a new pair of steel-toe, OSHA-approved Timberland-brand construction boots, courtesy of Brooklyn-based Goldmont Realty Corp and the Masbia Relief Team. The shoes retail for about $100 per pair.

According to Yesenia Mata, executive director of La Colmena, a large majority of Sunday’s graduating class were asylum seekers.

“This type of [course] is very important because it really supports the immigrant worker with the resources that they need so they can learn how to advocate for themselves,” said Mata. “They’re just looking to contribute … When you ask any of the workers here, they always say, ‘I just want to be able to contribute to society.’”

Mata stressed the strict and no-nonsense nature of the courses, which were taught by Felix Guzman, who Mata called a testament to La Colmena’s mission. Guzman arrived to Staten Island as an immigrant, became a student of La Colmena, and now teaches classes. He’s one of several La Colmena participants eager to help the organization expand its reach and reputation.

“It’s just beautiful to see [everyone] supporting one another,” said Mata. She added La Colmena offers various courses throughout the year.

“It is extremely important to give people back their dignity,” said Leon Goldenberg of Goldmont Realty Corp., who donated 50 pairs of boots. “They came to the U.S. to pursue the American Dream, and helping them enter the labor force so that they can fend for themselves is a basic human right.

“I am proud to sponsor those OSHA-approved boots.”

“This is a very human story,” said Alexander Rapaport, executive director of Masbia Relief Team. “This is about humanity, it’s very little about politics. People should be able to see beyond [politics] … these people came to America to pursue the American Dream.”

In addition to Sunday’s giveaway, Rapaport said the Masbia Relief Team has provided at least 3,000 new pairs of shoes to other individuals this year during the late summer and early fall.


While asylum seekers may be eager to start a new life, getting permission to live and work in the United States isn’t automatic. There is a lengthy process migrants must undergo to be granted asylum and the ability to legally apply for a job.

First, migrants have to apply for asylum, then they must wait 150 days to formally request a work permit called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). And migrants aren’t eligible to receive an EAD until an asylum application has been pending for a total of 180 days, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


In addition to two hotels on Staten Island, there are currently over 40 sites being used as temporary relief centers for asylum seekers in New York City, including a major site at Randall’s Island.

Asylum seekers housed in the Travis hotels will be here for at least six to nine months, according to officials who made the announcement during a community council meeting held by the 121st Precinct last month.

While many residents and local businesses have rallied to offer support, services and donations of food and clothing, a number have also voiced their discontent at the situation and the city’s handling of the crisis, specifically the amount of money being spent on the migrants and how the city’s already-overflowing shelter and school systems will deal with the influx.

On Staten Island, there are 213 newly enrolled homeless students, which includes asylum-seekers, across at least 15 schools, according to the data obtained by Gothamist.


Those who are interested in helping La Colmena provide resources to asylum seekers can donate at In addition, residents can contact La Colmena if they are interested in hiring a worker who received training through the organization, or volunteering with the organization.

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