Legal aid clinic helps Venezuelan migrants apply for temporary protected status, work authorization

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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Legal aid clinic helps migrants apply for TPS, work authorization
A legal aid clinic is helping Venezuelan Chicago migrants apply for temporary protected status and work authorization.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some migrants got some much-needed help filing out the paperwork for work permits and immigration protections at a legal aid clinic this weekend.

It's been hard, but Venezuelan migrant Aaron Bara hasn't given up on making his American dream come true.

"I had to sleep in a police station, and then go to the shelter. It was a long process," Bara said.

The 19 year old is one of the dozens of Venezuelan migrants getting help at a weekend legal aid clinic to apply for temporary protected status and work authorization.

"We don't have a Venezuelan consulate, so if they don't have a passport, it makes things even more complicated," said immigration attorney Nubia Willman.

Dozens of lawyers, law school students, and translators volunteered their time on Saturday to help the native Spanish speakers navigate the process, which includes filing out 31 pages of government forms, all in English.

Following successful events in October and November, 34th Ward Alderman Bill Conway decided to hold a third community legal aid clinic at no cost to the taxpayers or migrants.

"Our new arrivals, they want to work. They are grateful we are putting this on," Conway said.

Saturday's opportunity was offered to Venezuelan asylum-seekers, living at the Social Club shelter, who have been in country for 150 days and arrived in Chicago before July 31. Sixty to 100 new arrivals will be helped there.

"The goal of the administration is to keep people moving, keep people getting incorporated into the city," said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett.

SEE ALSO | 'Rogue' buses are trying to dump migrants in Cicero and leave to avoid Chicago fines

As chairperson of the Chicago City Council Committee on Immigration and Refugee Rights, 40th Ward Alderman Andre Vasquez wonders if the program can be scaled up citywide.

"So, whether they are shelters in the area or just the ability of folks who are willing to help, putting that together to make it a process that addresses and solves for more," Vasquez said.

Since August 2022, Chicago has received nearly 25,000 migrants.

Despite Saturday's efforts, there are thousands of migrants who arrived in Chicago after the deadline, and now do not qualify for TPS or work authorization.