PILSEN — Immigration advocates are pushing the federal government to help longtime undocumented residents access work permits as officials expand opportunities for some newly arrived migrants.
Advocates will hold a rally 11 a.m. Thursday — which is Dia de la Raza — outside The Resurrection Project, 1815 S. Paulina St. in Pilsen. They’ll call for the feds to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to get permits, which are needed for work, just as it has recently made it easier for newer migrants.
A coalition that includes The Resurrection Project, Southwest Organizing Project, Enlace Chicago, Latino Policy Forum and other groups hopes to mobilize Chicago’s immigrant community to push for policy changes.
“Mexican immigrants have been working for decades without any work permits, and we have been ignored and forgotten,” Netza Hualcoyotl Roldan, CEO of the Binational Institute of Human Development, said in a statement announcing the rally. “It is our time.”
The call for increasing access to work authorization comes as President Joe Biden’s administration recently expanded temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have recently come to the United States.
Under temporary protected status, Venezuelans who arrived before July 31 are safe from deportation and are eligible to apply for a work permit.
This move likely affects thousands who have come to Chicago since August 2022, bused here by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other politicians as a protest of federal immigration policies.
Shortly after Biden’s announcement in late September, activists and Pilsen Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) held a news conference to applaud the efforts, but they urged the federal government to consider issuing something similar for undocumented residents.
One option local leaders have floated is to expand parole, another form of temporary protection for immigrants. But it’s in the hands of the federal government whether to act on it.
The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the secretary of Homeland Security discretion to parole non-citizens who want to admitted into the United States temporarily “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
On Aug. 28, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. JB Pritzker wrote a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security secretary, asking the federal government to leverage the significant public benefit designation to grant work permits to migrants and existing undocumented residents to address a shortage of workers.
“This would unquestionably contribute ‘significant public benefit’ to our nation’s labor shortages while providing non-citizens, like the thousands of asylum seekers we serve, a faster and more streamlined pathway to self-sufficiency,” they wrote.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “there is no statutory or regulatory definition of ‘significant public benefit.’ Parole based on significant public benefit includes, but is not limited to, law enforcement and national security reasons or foreign or domestic policy considerations.”
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