Pritzker pleased with Biden's moves on migrant work permits

SPRINGFIELD - The Biden administration's decision to speed up the processing of work authorizations for asylum-seekers and extend temporary protected status to Venezuelans could help thousands of migrants who have arrived in Illinois in recent months.

Those moves, announced Wednesday, came in response to pleas from leaders in Illinois, New York and other states for help in dealing with the migrant crisis that is taxing city resources.

At an Aug. 30 news conference, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and state business leaders called on Biden to ease work restrictions for asylum-seekers and other long-term undocumented workers. At that time, Chicago officials said the city had received more than 13,000 asylum-seekers, the vast majority of whom had no official authorization to work in the United States.

Among other things, those officials requested the Department of Homeland Security allow states to sponsor asylum-seekers for work authorizations. And while that was not one of the actions announced Wednesday, Pritzker said he was happy with the actions the agency took to make it easier for those individuals to find employment.

"I'm very pleased that President Biden has listened to my concerns and those of other governors and political leaders and expanded temporary protected status to migrants from Venezuela, thousands of whom have been sent to Illinois over the last year," Pritzker said in a statement Wednesday.

"Despite traveling thousands of treacherous miles and then being used as political chess pieces by those who should have welcomed and helped them, they are eager to contribute to their new communities and get to work."

Asylum-seekers are people seeking temporary shelter and protection in the U.S. because they have suffered, or fear suffering, persecution in their home country due to factors such as race, religion, nationality or political opinion.

To be eligible for asylum, people must be physically present in the U.S. and apply for that status, usually by filing an online application known as an I-589, within one year of their arrival.

Federal law still requires asylum-seekers to wait six months after filing their claim before they can apply for a work permit. But starting Oct. 1, the Department Homeland Security will dedicate additional staff to reducing the median processing time for those applications from 90 days to 30 days.

In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will increase the maximum validity period for the work permits to five years for certain noncitizens, including those admitted as refugees or granted asylum, those who have been granted withholding of removal, and applicants for asylum.

According to the humanitarian aid group World Vision International, more than 7.7 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014, due largely to political unrest brought on by years of hyperinflation, political corruption and economic problems.

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