Resurrection Project implementing effort for migrants to receive work permits

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Some of the migrants currently staying in shelters in Chicago could get expedited work permits with the help of the Resurrection Project, a not-for-profit community organization that counts several Chicago parishes among its partners.

The organization is working with the federal government’s Citizenship and Immigration Services office to streamline the process of applying for work permits, which could help migrants get jobs and achieve independence sooner, said Erendira Rendon, vice president of immigrant justice at the Resurrection Project.

“This is a more streamlined, easier process for folks,” Rendon said. “Work permits allow them to get better jobs, potentially jobs with benefits that pay a living wage, protection from workplace abuse.”

The Catholic Church has long taught that work is important to human dignity, allowing people to participate in God’s creation. At the same time, the rights and dignity of workers must be protected, according to Catholic social teaching.

Pope Francis emphasized that teaching in “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” and Pope Benedict XVI wrote about it in “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), saying: “In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ‘because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family’” (No. 63).

The importance of helping migrants access legal labor markets became even more important after the City of Chicago announced that it would start notifying migrants that they have 60 days to leave city shelters, starting with the migrants who have been here the longest, in December.

According to a Nov. 17 press release, the city is pairing the exit notices with redoubled efforts to reunite migrants with family or sponsors in the Chicago area and across the country, and to help resettle migrants in their own apartments.

The resettlement effort is being led by Catholic Charities, which has experience in the area of refugee resettlement, Rendon said.

Migrants eligible for expedited permits are those who arrived before July 31 and who have either applied for asylum or belong to one of several groups who have been granted permission to live in the United States temporarily, Rendon said. Those groups generally include people who have come to the United States from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti.

Rendon said USCIS estimates that about 11,000 of the more than 20,000 migrants who have arrived in Chicago will be eligible for expedited work permits.

The Resurrection Project has created materials explaining the process and trained staff at the shelters to help migrants understand if they are eligible and what documents they need, Rendon said.

While the organization does provide legal aid as one of its services, it also is coordinating people from about 20 other organizations to help staff the workshops, she added.

Then, once potential participants have been screened in the shelters, those who may be eligible are taken by bus to an undisclosed location where legal aid volunteers help them fill out applications. Staff from USCIS are on hand to accept the applications and give the applicants a receipt, something that can take a month going through usual channels, and to fingerprint and photograph applicants, eliminating another possible delay.

The Resurrection Project said it has been told those whose applications are approved can receive their permits in one to two months.

It is too early for the process, which started in early November, to have resulted in actual work permits for anyone, Rendon said. On a recent day, 163 of 215 migrants who attended the workshop were able to complete the process, and that is similar to the numbers the workshop has been seeing most days it is open.

Rendon said the Resurrection Project will continue advocating for more avenues for undocumented immigrants to get work permits to safeguard their dignity as well.

“It’s something that the Resurrection Project has always advocated for,” she said, noting that workers in the underground economy are more likely to get less than minimum wage and to be victims of abuse and wage theft by their employers. “That’s the conditions that the undocumented have been working under for so many years.”


  • migrants

Related Articles