CBA Record September-October 2023
PRO BONO WEEK 2023 – GETTING PERSONAL WITH PRO BONO
Helping Immigrants Arriving in Chicago By Stephanie Spiro, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Amina Najib, Legal Aid Chicago
F or over 60 years, the U.S. has offered protection to people flee ing persecution in their homelands. U.S. law enshrines the protections of the International Refugee Convention, drafted in the wake of the horrors of World War II, by permitting any person in the United States to apply for asylum. This commitment has been put to the test as climate disasters, rising authoritarian ism, and political violence have resulted in unprecedented global migration. The majority of migrants arriving recently in Chicago have abruptly left their homelands, mainly Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia, fleeing perse cution, torture, and even threats of death. Many have crossed through Mexico: U.S.-Mexico border migration has increased yearly, reaching nearly 150,000 crossings in 2019. Migration patterns to Chicago show how immigration policies and politics at the U.S.-Mexico border affect communities everywhere, includ ing the Midwest. Since August 2023, the journey to safety for at least 12,000 of these adults and children has brought them to Chicago.
The National Immigrant Justice Center, Legal Aid Chicago, and the Legal Aid Society work closely with local part ners to provide legal resources to newly arrived migrants, including coordinating pro se affirmative asylum clinics to assist migrants with filing their own asylum cases. Consequences at the Border Many of the people now settling in our city face the consequences of an unravel ing of U.S. asylum law that began when the previous administration used the Covid-19 pandemic to justify implement ing a section of the Public Health Service Act referred to as Title 42. Under Title 42, asylum seekers were quickly expelled at the U.S. border (in violation of domestic and international law), but the practice did little to stop people from coming to the United States. In fact, repeat border cross ings increased, along with the dangers of exploitation, kidnapping, and other acts of violence faced by migrants journeying thousands of miles to the United States. When Title 42 expired with the end of the federal public health emergency
declaration in May 2023, the Biden administration replaced it with a host of other policies, including placing limits on asylum for people who transit through other nations before reaching the United States, disqualifying people who fail to secure an appointment at an official port of entry, and providing truncated asylum screenings for people detained at the U.S. border. These policies have resulted in rapid deportations that are often devoid of due process. Immigrant rights advo cates continue to challenge these policies through national litigation efforts. However, during these policy shifts, the U.S. government continued to allow some groups of migrants to enter at the southern border, processing and granting temporary parole to certain individuals and families who continued their jour neys to other U.S. cities to pursue legal protection. Beginning in the summer of 2022, some southern governors began to politicize the personal traumas of these migrants by busing people to northern cities, including Chicago. Other migrants sought to relocate to Chicago by other means for a variety of reasons. Amid the
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