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On Heels of Asylum Restrictions at the Southern Border, Illinois Elected Leaders and Advocates Call on President Biden to Issue Emergency Work Permits to Strengthen Economy and Build Communities


This follows the passage by the Illinois General Assembly of House Joint Resolution 69 which passed both chambers by a large margin and called on the President to take action on behalf of long-term undocumented Illinoisans.

CHICAGO – Today, elected officials, community and business leaders hosted a press conference to celebrate the passage of House Joint Resolution 69 (H.J.R. 69), the “Work Permits for All” resolution.

This resolution, which passed in the Illinois House and Senate on May 26, urges President Biden to immediately issue work permits for long-term undocumented workers who reside in Illinois. While the resolution does not grant work authorization, it is the latest indicator of the groundswell of public support for executive action on work permits in the months leading up to the November election where immigration is expected to be a central campaign issue.

Polling consistently shows that work permits for long-term undocumented immigrants is an overwhelmingly popular issue with both Democrats and swing voters and even enjoys majority support by likely Republican voters.

The state of Illinois now joins Chicago and Cook County each of which passed resolutions in December.

The issue now moves to Illinois’ Congressional delegation which has been asked to advocate for this policy with the Biden administration while continuing to push for a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants in Congress. 

Statements from speakers calling on President Biden to extend work permits to long-term immigrants who are hard-working taxpayers, contributors and strengthen our nation’s economy:

Erendina Rendon, Vice President of Immigrant Justice for The Resurrection Project:

“Today, we are here because the state joined the city and the county in calling on President Biden to use his executive authority to grant work permits for Illinois long-term undocumented residents. There are more than 400,000 immigrants in Illinois who, for decades have worked without a work permit, have contributed, gone to school, and graduated. They have U.S. citizen adult children. They have U.S. citizen spouses. Many are Dreamers, ineligible for DACA. If President Biden takes action, they can come out of the shadows, join the regular workforce, and have equal worker protection. Leader Hernandez and Senator Villa led efforts in the state legislature to pass House Joint Resolution 69, unequivocally saying, in Illinois, we believe that we would be stronger if our long-term undocumented could have access to work permits.”

Xochitl Cervantes, member of the Chicago Workers Collaborative:

“It is not fair that workers are always suffering violations in order to be heard. Thanks to the collaborative effort of the DALE program, I was able to get a work permit because I had been abused in the workplace. I am happy to continue to help and support the fight for a work permit. My biggest hope is that we all have a work permit without having to suffer and be abused.”

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL):

“Now that we have and are experiencing the most restrictive and punitive executive action on immigration taken in recent memory, it’s time to do the right thing. It’s time for President Biden to deliver for the working men and women of our country who have brought prosperity and vitality to our economy and solidity to our society because of their work and all of their efforts — they have made America a better place for all.

“We ask President Biden to do the right thing and use the executive authority of his office to provide relief to provide peace of mind and tranquility to people in our community, like the original Dreamers, the mothers and fathers and grandparents of the DACA class holders and those who wish that they could be a part of the DACA class of immigrants in this country.

“For spouses of U.S. citizens, both Republican and Democratic voters agree that they should have the ability to be here to reunite with their families and continue living a normal life in peace. It’s time for continuing use of the authority that is sacred and bound in the authority of the presidency of the United States. This is the time to act. This is the time to show compassion and say we value and recognize all the contributions that have been made by people who came here from 40, 30 or 3 days ago. It’s time to bring them out of the shadow. It’s time to provide an opportunity for dignity. We know they pay taxes, abide by the laws and create prosperity. They ought to have the opportunity to live, work and be a part of our community because that’s what makes our country great.”

Simone Peña Hernandez, an undocumented government major at Harvard and Dreamer:

“I came to this country with my family from Mexico when I was 14 years old, seeking a better life and more opportunities. Education has always been a core source of my family values and it became my primary focus. I learned English and graduated near the top of my class at Shores High School and got a full scholarship at Harvard, thanks to great teachers like Mr. Islas. My dad works in construction. My mom works two jobs as a classroom assistant and parent mentor and cleaning offices. We clean office buildings on the weekend as a family. As an undocumented student, a significant barrier that I encounter is not being able to have a work permit, instead of stipends. Sometimes, I get a gift card in exchange for my work. This lack of security not only impacts my academic performance, but also my mental and physical well-being. I will graduate from Harvard in less than two years and am deeply concerned I won’t be able to legally work in my desired field. Obtaining a work permit allow me to gain valuable experience in my area of study and enable me to focus on my future without the constant fear of deportation or unemployment. The undocumented immigrant community is resilient, hardworking and eager to contribute to the society that has given us a chance to dream. Thank you to the Illinois General Assembly for taking this important step to call on President Biden to grant work permits to me and my parents.”

U.S. Rep. Delia C. Ramirez (D-IL), the only member of Congress in a mixed-status family and wife to a DACA recipient. She shared the story of her uncle, who fled poverty in Guatemala to help his family:

“José Maximiliano Guerra, mi Tío Chilano, put five boys through college, working 70 hours and seven days a week, working his butt off in this country. And because of this system and bars, he still cannot live here outside of the shadows. This is exactly why this coalition is here today.

“Today, as a coalition, from the local level to the federal level, we are saying resist and persist with solutions that help every single person in this country. We’ve seen the numbers, that when you extend work permits for those that have been here, like my Tio Chilano, for 39 years, or if you’ve been here three days, it will help the workforce that’s desperately asking for those workers. It will generate revenue for cities like Chicago, the state of Illinois, even the state of Florida. And it will make it possible for families to be able to stay together.

“In the absence of congressional action (no real work done since 1986, when my parents became citizens), we call on President Biden to do what other presidents in 30 years have not done, which is issue boldly, proudly and unapologetically work permits for all. Congressman García and I and many of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus members will not stop every breathing moment between now and the next few weeks, because June is the perfect month for President Biden to finally issue the executive order that keeps families together.”

Imelda Salazar, community organizer for 24 years with the Southwest Organizing Project:“The Southwest Organizing Project represents hundreds of undocumented families and mixed-status families. President Biden, we want work permits for all. That’s the bottom line!”

State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, (D-Cicero) and Deputy Majority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives:

“I’m very proud to share with you that House Joint Resolution 69, calling on the Biden administration to issue work permits to long-term immigrants, passed both chambers with overwhelming support in our last year. It’s not very often that a policy issue can get business groups, unions, worker advocates, and community leaders all on the same page.

“While it is frustrating that we are limited in what we can do here at the state level, we must find a way to unite as the leaders in this room to deliver to these hard workers and their families. Whether they live in mixed status households, young people who do not qualify for DACA or they have been working in the shadows and living in fear for more than a generation, immigrant workers deserve the opportunity and peace of mind that a legal permit to work would bring.

“For decades, these workers have been vital to our economy, helping us through the pandemic as essential workers and contributing to a record-breaking economic recovery here in Illinois. They delivered to Illinois, so let’s deliver to them. Right now, Illinois can only fill 76 out of 100 open jobs. That means many critical roles go unfilled across the hospitality, manufacturing, health, education, and agricultural sectors, holding our leaders and leading industries back from the growth they could achieve. from driving our economy forward even further. This impacts all of us. Business leaders will tell you that expanding our authorized workforce isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s what is good for business and Illinois. We urge President Biden to use his executive power to bring real relief to working families who are the backbone of our economy. Long-term immigrant workers have waited long enough. The time for executive action is now.”

José Marco-Paredes, Vice President of Civic Engagement, Latino Policy Forum:
“Illinois has spoken: The President should extend work permits to long-term undocumented people in our state. There is a good reason this solution is so popular: we all win. Our economy grows, and undocumented immigrants can work with the dignity and protections that they and their families deserve.”

State Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago):

“There are 400,000 in Illinois who are demanding work permits for all. It’s my voice that you are hearing, but it’s their stories that propelled this forward. My good friend Natalio is a landscaper and has six children. He came to this country in search of a better life. He works winters in the factory, and in the summers, he mows lawns. Much like Simone, who’s at Harvard, they work hard and tirelessly and all they want is for a better future. So whether it’s from Harvard or from landscaping or essential workers working at meat packing districts who were risking their lives during COVID as essential workers, each and every one of those stories deserves a tomorrow. Each and every one of those stories deserve to come out of the shadows because they are essential and critical to our state’s well-being.”

Sam Sanchez, Chairman and CEO, Third Coast Hospitality, National Recreation Association board member and Illinois Recreation Association executive board member:

“Granting permits to Dreamers and to spouses of U.S. citizens and to the 400,000 hard-working immigrants who are not working at their actual capacity is good fiscal policy. As Illinois’ chief fiscal and accountability officer, I can tell you it would help Illinois’ bottom line and taxpayers to get these immigrants working. They want to work. Many of them are working, but they’re underperforming in terms of their ability to contribute to the tax base. Simone is going to graduate from Harvard but without a worker’s permit, maybe Sam can hire her in his restaurant to work washing dishes. Is that what we want for America? Of course not. She should be a lawyer or a doctor.

“We are asking for immigrant labor to have the basic dignity to legally work. Now, employers in Illinois are having difficulty finding workers to keep their businesses running, which is why business leaders are making the case that this makes financial sense, from the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, representing every business in the state of Illinois, not just Hispanic businesses. This isn’t just a Hispanic issue. Immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the economy. It makes more sense for asylum seekers and immigrants to pay into the tax base through gainful employment. Let’s save taxpayer money by getting these worker permits approved. President Biden, we are here to ask you to do the right thing. It is time.”

Teresa Labastida, Parent Mentor Program Manager, Palenque LSNA:

“I am an immigrant. I have been working in the shadows for many years, volunteering during the pandemic, helping our community, and assisting new arrivals. President Biden can open programs to apply for a work permit. I want to thank powerful leaders in our community, like Alderwoman Ruth Cruz, who joined city council members to urge President Biden to open this program.”

Alderwoman Ruth Cruz, 30th Ward:

“Giving work permits to undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers and mixed-status families, is fair and just. It protects workers and helps grow our economy. When we left our countries, we told our families, nos vamos para el norte (we’re going up North), and el norte (the North) has become our home. We call on President Biden to do the right thing, to be on the right side of history and to make sure to give work permits to all of our undocumented residents. Today, we continue to ask President Biden to allow 180,000 undocumented people in Chicago to request work permits. These permits mean more than just employment; they symbolize opportunity and freedom.” 

Karen Kent, President, UNITE HERE Local 1:

“We have welcomed waves of immigrants throughout the years . . . the waves of immigrants are like rings on the tree in our shops. We support expanding work permits for long-term undocumented individuals because it is an important step to help immigrant workers be more secure in their workplaces and provide stability to immigrant families. We will continue to push for work permits for all, for comprehensive immigration reform and justice for all immigrants.”

Lou Sandoval, President and CEO, Illinois Chamber of Commerce:
“As a business person and as a leader of the business community, this isn’t an issue of partisanship. This is an issue of opportunity and having people meet their potential. When we don’t fulfill the promise and we only go so far to let people become educated through DACA but then be underemployed, we’re not allowing them to fulfill their promise.On behalf of all the business in the state of Illinois, the biggest thing I hear from a lot of business leaders is the big need for workforce development. There’s a big gap right now and a lot of jobs that go unfilled. We need to do the right things for the long-term undocumented and make sure they are able to fulfill their economic potential.”

Manuel Perez, Senior Vice President, Cabrera Capital Markets:

“My parents immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s for a better life. They spoke little English and had less than a high school education but a strong work ethic. Because of my mother, I excelled academically, attended Princeton University on a full ride, and returned to Chicago, where I worked and contributed to the economy. I most recently served as Deputy Mayor of Chicago under Mayor Lightfoot and now work at Cabrera Capital Markets, the country’s largest Latino, Mexican-American-owned investment bank and brokerage firm. Our founder, Martin Cabrera, also has roots in Mexico. His grandparents came here through the Bracero program, picking fruit and vegetables in a field. Two generations later, their grandson is now one of the most successful bankers in the country.

“The issue of work permits is not only an issue of fairness for long-term workers, but a recognition of their contributions, and it’s an investment in the contributions that their children and grandchildren will provide for years to come. So let’s get this done, Mr. President.”

Rebecca Shi, Executive Director, American Business Immigration Coalition:

“The Democratic National Convention is going to be in Chicago, and we’re here because Harvard Dreamer students like Simone need a work permit, and so do undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens and mixed-status families. We’re here to welcome the President and provide work permits for all. Thank you to the elected officials who have been our champions.”



The Resurrection Project: Illinois General Assembly Approves Work Permits for All Resolution (May 28, 2024)

Latino Policy Forum: Illinois General Assembly Approves Work Permits for All Resolution (May 28, 2024)

American Business Immigration Coalition Action: New Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Humanitarian Parole For Strengthening America’s Economy, Workforce (January 9, 2024)


About The Resurrection Project
The Resurrection Project (TRP) builds trusting relationships to educate and propel individuals, immigrants and families to achieve their social and economic aspirations, stable homes and equitable participation in their community. TRP is a leading provider of affordable housing, financial education and immigration services on Chicago’s Southwest side.

During the past three decades, TRP has worked to improve the lives of individuals and families by creating wealth, building assets and engaging residents to be catalysts for change. Rooted in the Pilsen community, TRP’s impact now extends across the City of Chicago and throughout the State of Illinois; we are making steady progress towards leveraging and preserving more than $1 billion in community wealth by 2025. To learn more about our programs and services, visit us at

American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) is a bipartisan coalition of 1,400+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across the country. ABIC promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.

About the Latino Policy Forum

The Latino Policy Forum is the only organization in the Chicago area that facilitates the involvement of Latinos at all levels of public decision-making. The Forum conducts analysis to inform, influence and lead. Its goals are to improve education outcomes, advocate for affordable housing, promote just immigration policies and engage diverse sectors of the community, with an understanding that advancing Latinos advances a shared future. For more information, visit