Chicago migrants get help with work authorization paperwork from attorneys at legal aid clinic

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Saturday, November 11, 2023
Attorneys volunteer time at migrant legal aid clinic
It takes about 30 pages of government forms for a migrant to apply for Temporary Protected or Status (TPS) and work authorization.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It takes about 30 pages of government forms for a migrant to apply for Temporary Protected Status and work authorization. The federal status is only being offered to Venezuelans who arrived before August 1.

"Anyone who has ever done immigration knows it's a really, really deep process with a lot of forms in English and it requires a lot of nuanced information," said immigration attorney Nubia Willman.

RELATED: Pilot program launching in Chicago to help migrants get work permits

Willman and others volunteered their time Friday to help migrants in Ald. Bill Conway's 34th Ward navigate the process. Conway hosted his second legal aid clinic at no cost to taxpayers.

"We have about 30 volunteers who are lawyers, law students and translators that help people go through the very complicated forms," he said.

READ MORE: Residents march against Brighton Park migrant camp plans

Jesus Perdoma-Torres is grateful for the help. He, his partner and their two sons have been living at a downtown shelter for the past few weeks. Through a translator, he said he doesn't want to depend on the government to support himself and his family. He said he wants to work to provide for his children.

But it won't happen overnight.

"The immigration processing times take quite a few months. It is a long process because they have to ensure that the person is eligible the person has to get biometrics," said Willman.

Work authorization could take up to 16 months, but the Biden administration is trying to expedite the process.

"30 days is our goal, in some places it is happening, we can prove it is happening," said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

Durbin stopped by the legal aid clinic. He hopes lawmakers can pass a budget soon that includes more humanitarian assistance for the migrants.

For the thousands of migrants who arrived in Chicago after August 1 and do not qualify for TPS or work authorization, Sen. Durbin does not know if President Biden will extend his order to include them.