Chicago migrants from Venezuela, Ukrainian refugees receive very different receptions

Sarah Schulte Image
Saturday, October 28, 2023
Chicago migrants from Venezuela, Ukraine refugees receive very different receptions
Chicago has over 19,000 migrants from Venezuela and over 30,000 refugees from Ukraine, who have gotten very different receptions since they began arriving.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago continues to struggle with the number of new migrants in the city. More than 19,000, largely from Venezuela, have arrived since 2022, with more than 11,000 in city shelters and around 3,300 await placement, mostly living in police districts.

But the city has also welcomed more than 30,000 refugees from Ukraine since Russia's invasion in 2022.

The two group have received very different receptions.

The Ukrainian flag and other signs of support are still visible in Chicago neighborhoods 21 months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A large, established community is one of the reasons the city has been able to absorb more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees without it becoming a crisis similar to the one surrounding Venezuelan migrants.

"They have relatives over here, they have family over here, they have friends over here," said Frank Sandoval of the Illinois Venezuelan Alliance.

Sandoval said with the exception of a few restaurants, the Venezuela community in Chicago is small and not nearly enough to absorb the more than 19,000 migrants who have arrived in the past year.

"That's not what happens with Venezuelans and some of the Venezuelans are already here and not settled enough to absorb their friends too," he said.

In addition, Ukrainian refugees arrived with a status granted by the federal government that made their path easier, including programs that opened the door to obtaining work permits immediately.

"The federal government has programs set up for arrivals from Ukraine and Afghanistan that through local sponsors and federal coordination that allows those communities to get the start they need," said Brandon Lee of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The federal government is now allowing protective temporary status for Venezuelans who arrived before August 1. If approved, migrants can get work permits.

"The temporary protective status is a step of many that needs to be taken by the federal government," Lee said.

Immigration groups says because there is not a large established Venezuelan community in Chicago, more federal resources and coordination is the only way for the city to smoothly absorb so many migrants.