If you live in Chicago, you probably know by now that Texas governor Greg Abbott has been sending asylum seeking migrants to Chicago by the busloads since August.
Under Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance,” the city does not ask questions about immigration status, disclose information to authorities or deny city services based on immigration status. Additionally, the City of Chicago has established a website seeking donations and volunteer support of new arrivals from Texas. The website is:
You can also sign up to volunteer on their website and email DONATIONS@cityofchicago.org for more information on how to help.
Many of the migrants arriving are fleeing traumatic, violent, and otherwise unstable environments. The majority of migrants have been from Venezuela. In recent years the economic situation in Venezuela has become dire. After 2015 when Hugo Chavez died, there was an increase in political oppression and violence.
Because of the economic collapse in the country, there is a scarcity of food, medicine, and other essentials. Exacerbating the situation, many Venezuelans are denied visas to enter the US because of poor relations between the US and Venezuela. Many migrants are making the long trek (by plane, bus, and foot at times) from Venezuela, through Central America and Mexico, to finally arrive at border cities with Texas, where they can enter the US legally as asylum seekers.
Aside from needing basic shelter, food and clothing, the migrants arriving also need legal help immediately.
I was able to interview Alejandra Oliva, community coordinator at Heartland Alliance working in the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), to learn more. NIJC is working closely with local partners to support asylum seekers and other immigrants who have arrived by bus from Texas.
Claudia: Alejandra, thank you for speaking with me. Please tell me how many people have arrived from Texas so far?
Alejandra: We’ve seen about 1,500 people since the first bus arrived. Buses are coming in just about every day with a mix of families and single people who all need legal orientations.
Claudia: What kind of status are migrants seeking?
Alejandra: These folks are generally seeking asylum, but the more immediate issues many of them have is address changes and figuring out how to check in with ICE.
Claudia: What kind of volunteers do you need? How can people help right now?
Alejandra: NIJC has been going into the reception center and giving people basic legal orientations and knowing your rights to conversations. Right now, the primary need we have is for Spanish-speaking attorneys who would also be able to go into the center on the far north side and work alongside NIJC staff in giving orientations.
You can sign up here: https://immigrantjustice.org/volunteer-recent-arrivals.
Non-Spanish speaking attorneys can help us out by taking pro bono cases, freeing up our staff to continue to be involved in welcoming these new arrivals! https://immigrantjustice.org/be-pro-bono-
You can also learn more about NIJC’s response to the recent arrivals here:
Alejandra Oliva graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a Master’s in Theological Studies. Before joining NIJC, she volunteered as an interpreter and translator for those applying for asylum with New York’s New Sanctuary Coalition, and as a court observer with Boston Immigration Accompaniment Network. Her writing on immigration has previously been published at Zora Mag, Bookforum, Christian Century and Electric Literature.
Claudia Badillo is a Chicago-based attorney specializing in immigration issues.