(IntegrityPress.org) – Recently in Chicago, undocumented immigrants reportedly appealed to President Joe Biden for work permits. Thousands of laborers, accompanied by political leaders, community organizers, and employers, converged in Washington DC advocating for work authorization for nearly 8 million migrants. Similarly, a rally in Pilsen, Chicago, aimed at expanding the federal parole program used by the president to expedite permits for migrants from Central/South American countries and Cuba.
This program allows immigrants from specific countries to seek asylum but doesn’t guarantee automatic work authorization. Long-time undocumented immigrants argue that they are continually overlooked despite contributing significantly to local and national economies. According to University of Chicago assistant professor Angela Garcia, they feel they’ve been asked to “take the back seat and wait” while witnessing other populations moving forward.
Local business owner Juana Arreguin emphasized the similarity between long-time undocumented residents and new migrants, emphasizing their decades-long contributions to taxes. Conseulo Martinez, a mother of two, said she felt forgotten.
Pew Research Center reports more than 300,000 Illinois workers lack permanent legal status, paying taxes without job permits. Undocumented laborers contribute around $900 million in federal taxes and $700 million in state and local taxes, according to the American Immigration Council. Workers argue that work permits would afford them workplace protections, legal wages, and the ability to improve their lives.
Due to fears of applying for government or community resources, some migrants resort to fake documents or working under the table. Illinois has directed at least $160 million in the past year towards food, shelter, permanent housing, health care, and legal aid for new immigrants, including initiatives like homeless shelters and tents in Chicago’s Brighton Park.
The last successful legalization attempt for unauthorized workers occurred in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, benefiting around 3 million migrants who gained legal status. The current plea for work permits highlights the ongoing challenges faced by undocumented immigrants seeking recognition and inclusion.
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