Steve DiGioia

Creativity Occurs for Chicago Migrants Amidst the Worst of Times 

Many of the migrants not being able to get work permits are finding ways to earn and provide for their families.

More than 34,000 migrants that were sent from Texas and other states to Chicago since August 2022 are finding ways to support their families amidst the migration crisis.

The migrants, desperate for work, are doing odd jobs to earn money. Many of the migrants are qualified for a work permit but the application process is a long wait with many not knowing where to seek help from. On top of that, most of them don’t know how to speak English, which makes it even harder to find a job.

The Alternatives

For many, the dream of seeking a work permit might seem impossible so they get creative and find their alternatives.

Some migrants do manicures, cut hair, clean houses and work at construction sites, adding to the already established underground economy that is fed by undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico and Central America.

The single ones are still able to feed themselves by earning less, but it becomes harder for migrants with families to do so.

Jesus Fernandez, a 40-year-old migrant from Venezuela has five kids and for them, he had to find work after arriving in Chicago nearly four months back.

Every day, he walks up to Montrose Avenue in Uptown with a bucket and a cleaning pole, to clean building windows.

He says he is willing to work for anything as long as he earns something. The work provides him with about $60 in less than three hours but on some days, he does not get any work at all.

In a recent incident, Denisse, a migrant from Ecuador, who has been in Chicago since December, sells candies on a bicycle and was seen peddling with her two sons on Irving Park Road.

She carried her 3-year-old on her shoulders while her 10-year-old son tried selling lollipops on a corner. The road is an unsafe place for her as she carries her son with her, dodging the cars on the way, which shows the desperation of her situation as she is willing to risk her family’s life.

She said in Spanish that she couldn’t sit and do nothing for her two sons. Selling candies in the afternoons gives her $30 a day. In such a small amount she pays for medicines for her kids and bus passes to look for other jobs. On top of that, she worries about permanent housing for the future.


Aid to the Migrant Crisis 

The Biden administration has granted Venezuela migrants a temporary protected status, giving them the benefit of work permits and temporary relief from deportation but only to those who have been in America since July 31.

The federal and state governments are working together with city officials to help migrants apply for work permits. More than 916 migrants have received work through the effort.

Many undocumented migrants, who arrived before it turned into a crisis are concerned about the fall of wages in construction work. Where earlier migrants used to earn, a small profit are now only able to receive $5 an hour.

The fall in wages affects their families as they are not able to pay for the housing.

Not a Crisis but an Opportunity

Some of the labor experts view the whole scenario as an opportunity to boost the economy as labor force is increasing and not as a crisis.

Jaime di Paulo, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says that it is a sign of a strong workforce for Chicago and New York in the coming years.

Some migrants like Fernandez are working well in their small adventures as they get steady work excluding Some days. Like many migrants, he is positive and determined to work the way he does as it’s better than doing nothing at all.


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