Chicago Unity Initiative, local church help migrants receive work permits

Friday, February 23, 2024
Chicago Unity Initiative helps migrants receive work permits
As the Chicago migrant crisis continues, the Chicago Unity Initiative is helping asylum seekers receive work permits.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As Chicago's migrant population has surged, local groups are helping the new arrivals to get work permits.

Some migrants now have a new opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.

A 24-year old migrant from Venezuelan, Alejandra Alvarado, got the gift of a future. She now has a work permit to build a future in America.

"We were celebrating just seeing their faces glow... Social Security card, and the temporary card," Pastor John Zayas with Grace and Peace Church said. "They were just so excited."

The special moment was blasted out on TikTok by the Chicago Unity Initiative and Zayas, who is a central character in a local church's efforts to work with the city to providing housing, resources, legal aid services and jobs for migrant families. Some 1500 people have already been helped in this way.

"They thought about, 'okay now... we can get a job, we can go and so that opens the door for us to even know the companies that have been saying once they receive the work permits give us a call," Zayas said. "We just started calling the companies and sending them there to apply and find work."

The facilitation of work permits is part of the multi-faceted resurrection project, which is bringing together city and community based resources to help get some of the thousands of recent migrants to Chicago on their way to self-sufficiency.

34-year-old Usvely Rejel is a mother of two from Venezeula. Her moment was recorded on TikTok too, when she received her permit in January. She's working with the church now.

Eleni Raquel Maldonado Marquez is also hoping to work after receiving her work permit through the church.

She said she was very happy and grateful.

SEE ALSO | Chicago migrants: Organizers demand Biden issue work permits for eligible Mexican families

Pastor Zayas said showcasing the life changing moments not only celebrates growth, but counters stereotypes.

'They say, 'I came here to work and I'm gonna show you now that I have my work permit, listen, I'm going to work and that's what's happening,' and they are so excited," Zayas said.

The Grace and Peace Church is waiting on another 50 work permits to be issued.

"We were in tears, because it's a lot of work, and knowing that we were struggling to get them to the finish line or close to it, we just started celebrating and we were just excited, because you know we were walking this journey with them," Zayas said. "And hearing their pain and hearing the stories so for us all, it was just total joy."