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Welcoming New Neighbors is a North Lawndale Value: NLEN's Statement on Supporting Asylum Seekers

North Lawndale Employment Network is proud of our 23-year legacy of connecting job-seekers to good, local jobs and advocating for policies that build long-term prosperity for everyone in Chicago’s West Side—and beyond.

Supporting new neighbors seeking a safer, better life is an integral aspect of North Lawndale’s history—from supporting Jewish immigrants fleeing violent pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, to creating a haven of prosperity for Black residents fleeing the violence and discrimination of the Jim Crow South during the Great Migration. As asylum seekers from South and Central America have arrived in Chicago, we have witnessed extremely intense and divisive rhetoric about our newest neighbors, and as organization with a deeply rooted social justice mission, we want to make clear where we stand.


Fighting Decades of Disinvestment Takes All of Us


It is no secret that Chicago’s West and South Sides have experienced significant economic disinvestment over the past 50 years. We have seen the acute impact of the closure of the Sears headquarters and the cascading impacts on other employers in the neighborhood, and we have worked tirelessly to bring economic re-investment to the neighborhood as a workforce development organization, and with our collaboration as a member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Committee, North Lawndale Collaborative and advocacy to local officials and stakeholders. Everyone—whether a lifelong resident of North Lawndale, or a new asylum seeker seeking a new life in a new neighborhood, deserves to live in a safe and prosperous neighborhood and city.


Shaming, Blaming, and Attacking Our Newest Neighbors Hurts All of Us


Chicago has seen a dramatic influx in new asylum-seekers, who traveled from Venezuela and across Central America across a treacherous route to escape violence and political instability. Seeking asylum in the United States is legal, and it is unfortunate that some state governors have responded to people seeking America’s promise of freedom by loading asylum seekers on busses with little notice of where they were headed. Playing politics with asylum seekers is never acceptable—no matter their country of origin. Public attacks on our most vulnerable neighbors and accusations that asylum seekers living in poverty take away resources from others are false and do not bring us any closer to building a neighborhood and city that works for everyone.


Transparency And Accountability Are Key to Securing Public Trust


We support all efforts to connect our new neighbors who have been sleeping on the floors of police stations with safe, stable, secure, and permanent housing. We know that housing is the critical foundation for stability and prosperity. As the city evaluates all available options to house our new neighbors, we will continue to advocate that all jobs and contracts go to local organizations and job-seekers whenever possible.


Housing and Employment Are Critical to Safety and Prosperity


We applaud the new Temporary Protected Status designation for Venezuelan asylum seekers—which will hopefully expedite the work permit process so asylum seekers can more quickly find employment and build prosperity and self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. We’ve seen first-hand that employment is deeply transformational for the people and communities we serve. We’ve also seen first-hand that Chicago’s affordable housing crisis impacts many families and creates significant barriers to long-term prosperity. We will continue to advocate for more avenues to bring affordable housing to Chicago’s West Side and continue to work to connect people with housing though the work of our Financial Opportunity Center.


Our Doors Are Open to Every Neighbor Seeking a U-Turn and a Path to Prosperity

NLEN was established on a foundation on assisting anyone who needed to make a U-Turn in their lives or forge a path to prosperity—no matter what challenges they faced before walking through our doors. This commitment remains as we welcome new neighbors to North Lawndale now. Our Financial Opportunity Center staff provide services in Spanish to people seeking assistance with benefits applications or connections to our Mobile Pantry in partnership with Nourishing Hope, and our staff are happy to provide referrals and connections to organizations that can assist asylum seekers. As an organization we are continuing to find ways to advance our mission so we can serve everyone on Chicago’s West Side.


To learn more about our work, visit nlen.org or contact us at info@nlen.org

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