Chicago migrants get expedited work permits with newly launched pilot program

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, November 9, 2023
Chicago migrants get expedited work permits with new pilot program
Chicago's efforts to help migrants get jobs and move out of shelters took an important step forward as the city launched a pilot program aimed at expediting work permits.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago migrants can now get expedited work permits thanks to a newly launched pilot program.

The program only applies to migrants who arrived in the U.S. before July 31, so only about half of those who have come to Chicago so far. But for them it could be a game changer.

A common goal of migrants coming to Chicago is to get a job to support themselves and their families, to get out of shelters and tents outside police stations.

Thursday the first 150 eligible new arrivals began to application process for work prmits.

"Immigrants are, you know, are excited and they're happy to be able to receive the assistance that they need to be able to apply for work permits. They have a lot of questions about how fast they will get here and they have questions about how to find a job in the meantime," said Ere Rendon, vice president of Immigrant Justice, Resurrection Project.

Part of the process involved getting fingerprinted and having criminal background checks done. The application process is a joint effort with the Resurrection Project and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The clinics are being held at undisclosed locations.

"If we're in a situation where we have too many people, we won't be able to serve everybody and it may create a little bit more chaos than necessary, right?" Rendon said.

The effort is a result of the city's request for federal help that began in September, and led to a visit in October from Homeland Security to assess this city's migrant situation.

"Until about mid-February, there'll be a little over 30 sessions and each one aims to serve 300 people so that in this period we will be able to help approximately 11,000 people get their work authorization programs," said Deputy Mayor Beatriz Ponce de Leon.

But for many in communities like Little Village, the new program is bittersweet. Because while it's helping new migrants, many people who have waited for years to get their work permits are still left waiting.

"You have families that have been waiting for 15-20 years, Reagan launched the last amnesty. So ever since then, people have been slowly trying to get their legal status. But all the barriers that USCIS puts is very hard," said Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council.

Next week nearly 500 immigrants, community leaders and others from Chicago will be heading to Washington D.C. to take part in a national rally to urge the Biden Administration to extend work permits to all immigrants.