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Immigration Project welcomes new work protections for some migrants, but calls it a piecemeal approach

FILE - Immigrants from Venezuela are reflected in a marble wall while taking shelter at the Chicago Police Department's 16th District station on Monday, May 1, 2023. In Chicago, where 13,000 migrants have settled in the last year, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to ask for parole for asylum-seekers, which, they say, would allow him to get around the wait for a work permit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, FIle)
Charles Rex Arbogast
Immigrants from Venezuela are reflected in a marble wall while taking shelter at the Chicago Police Department's 16th District station in May.

The head of the Immigration Project in Normal says new protections for Venezuelan migrants in the U.S. could help thousands of asylum seekers find work in Illinois.

Executive director Charlotte Alvarez welcomes the new Biden administration policy, but said it also shows that national immigration policy still can't keep up with today's migrant worker landscape.

Charlotte Alvarez
Charlotte Alvarez

“I think it’s a real key sign in the right direction,” Alvarez said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. “It came with some additional militarization of the border, and border enforcement measures I think are counterproductive.”

Alvarez added she would like to see the expanded protections enable all undocumented immigrants find work.

“It really shows the piecemeal approach to our immigration system and the disconnects between the immigration realities of our populations we are working with and the political structures that are creating our immigration policy,” she said.

In a statement, Gov. JB Pritzker applauded the move, saying additional workers will alleviate some symptoms of the worker shortage in Illinois.

Alvarez noted the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation is reserved for when it would be unsafe to send undocumented immigrants back to their home country. Though there are some background checks to go through, Alvarez said these workers will be better protected while that status remains in effect for at least the next 18 months.

There are about 11,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers in Illinois outside of Chicago, she said, noting some were bused to Chicago from southern states and some migrants came to Illinois on their own to try to start a new life.

The nonprofit Immigration Project offers immigration services to 86 counties throughout central and southern Illinois.

Alvarez said businesses already have reached out to the organization to offer jobs to the migrants seeking work authorization.

“There’s a lot of need for people who are bilingual, have a lot of great services and a lot of our immigration population who are coming here as recent arrivals have an amazing amount of grit and determination,” Alvarez said.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Braden Fogerson is a student reporter at WGLT. He joined the station in May 2023.