CHICAGO — As the City of Chicago struggles to house the recent influx of migrants being bused to the city, many of the new arrivals face another major stumbling block, the inability to obtain legal work permits.
On Friday, Alderman Bill Conway (34th Ward), with help from US Senator Dick Durbin, organized an effort to help streamline the application process.
It is a burdensome process for those seeking work authorization, most of them Spanish speakers from Venezuela who must fill out 30 pages of government forms, all in English.
“When you meet the new arrivals, and you talk to them for just a few minutes, one of the first things they say is, ‘Can you help me find a job?’” Sen. Durbin said.
It is the second time Ald. Conway has hosted the free legal aid clinic.
“This humanitarian crisis is really going to require us to work across all levels of government,” Conway said.
Wilfredo Gil, a Venezuelan asylum seeker, who took part in Friday’s event, said he was emotional and relieved to finally be able to apply for Temporary Legal Status (TPS), which is needed before one can obtain a work permit.
Conway said it wouldn’t be possible with the volunteers.
“We have about 30 volunteers here that are lawyers, law, students, and translators,” Conway said.
The one-day legal clinic at 79 West Monroe Street in the Loop cost zero taxpayer dollars, with the building owner donating the temporary space.
“This is a test for all of us as Americans, our land of immigrants and opportunity, to prove that this generation is willing to help,” Sen. Durbin said.
Processing the applications could take between five and six months, but organizers say their goal is to reduce the processing time to about 30 days.