toro 3296SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Natalie Toro is leading a measure to make work permits more accessible and attainable to new arrivals.

“Filling out a lengthy work permit application alone, in a language you may not be fluent in, while in a crowded, noisy shelter, can be very difficult for new arrivals to complete accurately,” said Toro (D-Chicago). “This legislation will ensure new arrivals have expert support in the confusing application process, so that they are able to join the workforce more seamlessly.”

Senate Bill 3296 would create a grant program for community-based organizations to receive funding to help them provide free assistance to newly arrived immigrants going through the work permit application process. By establishing this program and providing grants to local organizations, Toro hopes new arrivals would be able to receive support more quickly so they can start their career and settle in the city sooner. 

Nearly 5,000 immigrants in Chicago shelters qualify for work permits, but only 30% of those who qualify are currently employed. That’s because while many qualify, the process of applying and securing a work permit is largely inaccessible for new arrivals. The process is time-consuming and complex, and is more difficult with a long portion completely in English. For new arrivals who may not fully understand English and are experiencing a lot of instability, tackling the application process can seem insurmountable.  

“It can be extremely stressful to navigate a lengthy application process while also facing the everyday stress of taking care of their families and longing for secure income and protective status,” said Toro. “Helping immigrants navigate the process will be life-changing and allow them to breathe easier with newfound security.”

Senate Bill 3296 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations – Health and Human Services Committee.