Cristian González and his family left Venezuela as soon as life there became unbearable.
But not soon enough, apparently.
González, 23, crossed the Texas border in August — too late to be included in an expansion of Temporary Protected Status, extended to Venezuelans arriving on or before July 31.
“If we had just traveled faster, we would’ve made it,” he said Monday. He, his wife, Nazareth Garcia and their 2-year-old daughter, Aranza, were delayed in Mexico — because they were robbed, and also by the balky app migrants must use to apply to cross the border.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s announcement last week will affect potentially hundreds of thousands of migrants around the country, protecting them from deportation and accelerating their work authorizations.
Though that includes a majority of the 15,000 migrants who have arrived in Chicago, thousands, including González, are still excluded.
Almost a quarter of all arrivals came after Aug. 2, according to data from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications; and many of those here weren’t Venezuelan anyway, including a quarter of the 8,300 in city shelters.
Roughly 40% of all arrivals, then, would not get any relief from the recent announcement, leaving them in the care of the city, which pushed for the expanded special status because it would allow people to become independent.
The city has projected that without that change, it would have to spend hundreds of millions to care for recent arrivals ineligible to work. Those expenses include a $29.3 million contract with GardaWorld to help set up the “winterized base camps” Mayor Brandon Johnson proposed to house the migrants. But GardaWorld has been cited for the mistreatment of migrants, including children, in Texas and in Canada.
“People will still find work, one way or another,” said Maria Rodriguez, an agricultural engineer from Venezuela who arrived in the U.S. in mid-August, just missing the cutoff. “We didn’t come here for handouts, but to work.”
The pace of arrivals is only growing. Over the weekend, 12 more busloads arrived, more than in any two-day period since the crisis began in August 2022, according to city data.
The number of people arriving at the border is rising, too, and many of them aren’t Venezuelan anyway. In August alone — the newest available data — there were almost 233,000 encounters at the Southwest border. Between October 2022 and August, there were more than a million encounters with non-Venezuelans.
Many migrants making the cutoff felt some relief after the announcement, and many advocates and elected officials welcomed it, while also saying it didn’t go far enough.
“We believe everybody should be allowed to apply for work permits, including the many that have been in the country for decades,” said Eréndira Rendón of the Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based immigration organization.
Rendón was among several community leaders and elected officials speaking at a rally last week. Other speakers included state Rep. Theresa Mah and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th).
The situation in Venezuela is extreme, Rendón said, but that doesn’t mean the level of poverty isn’t extreme elsewhere too.
“It’s good to give [Temporary Protected Status] to Venezuelan migrants,” she said, “but it’s necessary to give it to all immigrants.”
From 2013 through 2019, nearly two-thirds of all economic activity in Venezuela disappeared, according to an estimate from the International Monetary Fund. By comparison, during the Great Depression in the U.S., the economy shrunk less than a third.
Marioxi Leon was an elementary school teacher back home. She said she gave up her position when her monthly salary could no longer cover more than just a couple of days of food.
She and her family arrived in September, also too late to be helped by the change in work permits.
“That’s not right. The 31st of July — why that day?” said Leon, 36, seated outside a police station on Monday with her three daughters and their dog, Cookie. “I need work, too. to help take care of these four.”
Michael Loria is a staff reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.
https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/9/25/23889339/migrant-crisis-chicago-work-permits-venezuela-latin-central-south-america-exclusions Thousands of migrants in Chicago left out of expansion of Temporary Protected Status for some Venezuelans