Chicago church helps migrant families secure work permits

Chicago Church Helps Migrant Families Secure Work Permits

A local church is working with the city of Chicago to provide housing, resources, legal aid services and access to job opportunities for migrant families.

It’s part of a network of churches and organizations helping migrant families to secure work permits so they can make a living on their own.

A special moment captured on camera by Unity Initiative Chicago has been viewed tens of thousands of times on social media. The woman seen in the video is filled with joy and happiness after getting her work permit and she’s not the only one.

“The best thing that could have happened to me,” said Usvely Rejel, who told NBC Chicago through an interpreter.

The 34-year-old from Venezeula is a mother of two. She received her permit in December and has been working in the café at Grace and Peace Church in the Austin neighborhood ever since.

“I feel super happy because first I can work. I already have my social. I can have my bank account,” she said. “I can start getting my credit to have my own house. I can have a bigger business. I can dream. Without my papers you can’t do nothing.”

The church provides housing, resources, and legal aid services to migrants in partnership with the city of Chicago. Pastor John Zayas told NBC Chicago around 1,500 migrants who have gone through the church already have their documents in hand.

“The good news is once they get their paperwork and permits it’s time go right so we have companies that have called us to ask for folks who are ready to work because they’re ready to hire,” said Pastor Zayas.

But the application process is long and complex, a process 24-year-old Alejandra Alvarado said she couldn’t have done without the network of support.

“I can now start working legally without being afraid,” she said.

The pastor said they started posting the videos on TikTok to show that everyone is chasing the American Dream.

“I know there is a negative side to this and we’re trying to combat that with the positive side because we’re still a melting pot for immigrants,” he said.