Chicago law firm steps up to assist migrants free of charge

With buses still on the move from Texas, the City of Chicago has now received more than 21,000 migrants from the southern border.

Since August 31, 2022, the city has welcomed a total of 492 buses.

A newly released graph on the city’s ‘New Arrivals’ dashboard reveals which cities those buses are coming from – and it shows a changing trend.

Early on, buses were primarily arriving from El Paso, Texas. Now it has shifted, with a growing number of buses from Brownsville, Texas – a border town south of Houston.

After trekking thousands of miles prior to arriving in the United States – at times in dangerous conditions – the journey for migrants doesn’t end when they get to America. Instead, a complicated legal process awaits.

That's why one Chicago law firm is working to ease the burden.

On top of a language barrier, some migrants have reportedly been assigned immigration hearings in other cities, like Denver and Dallas, but have no idea where those places are or how to get there.

That's where Kimball Anderson, a partner at Winston & Strawn, comes in. Over the summer, an unrelated case brought him to Chicago Police District 18 near Larrabee and Division streets. While on his way out, several migrants asked him for help.

"I was approached by quite a few of the migrants," said Kimball R. Anderson, partner, Winston & Strawn LLP. "They, for the most part, had no resources at all."

Using Google Translate and with the help of a volunteer on-site, he understood what they needed.

Once on U.S. soil, new arrivals who are fleeing their home countries have one year to apply for asylum, but Anderson discovered that many people were approaching that deadline – and still didn't know where to begin.

"We have a humanitarian crisis and an access to justice crisis," Anderson said.

Compelled to help, Anderson teamed up with his law firm's pro bono attorneys and other agencies, like the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), to host a series of free legal clinics. Those sessions served to educate new arrivals on their rights, and guide them on what to do next.

"To apply for work permits, to apply for a change of venue – to move their hearings from, let's say, Denver to Chicago. And fundamentally, just to register their whereabouts with the Department of Homeland Security. So they needed to go online basically," said Anderson.

Meanwhile, city officials have launched a pilot program for a one-stop work authorization clinic that aims to serve at least 150 migrants per day. It’s being done in partnership with the White House and The Resurrection Project (TRP).

"We just need to pause, hold our breath a little bit and invest all necessary resources to get these people into jobs, because they all want to work, and first and foremost, get them off the streets, because that’s untenable, that’s inhumane," said Anderson.

Anderson says Winston & Strawn, in partnership with other organizations, is planning to host additional clinics in the near future. He says bilingual volunteers are needed to help translate.

If you're interested in helping, you’re encouraged to contact the National Immigrant Justice Center by clicking HERE – and scrolling down to ‘Other Ways You Can Help.’

More information on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Citizenship Services can be found HERE, while the application for asylum can be located HERE.