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Answering Your Questions About Asylum Seekers

Last week, buses sent from Texas began arriving in Chicago carrying asylum seekers from the U.S. southern border. Since then, local government officials and organizations have been working quickly to ensure that the new arrivals have access to food, housing, and the other essentials every human needs to survive—while also creating longer-term solutions.  

With the news that some of the asylum seekers have been relocated to temporary lodging in the suburbs, many people in Burr Ridge, Willowbrook, Elk Grove Village, and other neighborhoods in Chicago’s Western suburbs are asking “What’s going on? What does this mean for my community?” 

World Relief has served immigrants and refugees in the Chicago area for more than 40 years. We have offices in Aurora, Chicago, and DuPage County and work with hundreds of local partners. We know you have questions and concerns – and we want to help you stay informed and ready to respond.  

Your Top Questions  

Who are the people coming on these buses from Texas? Are they illegal immigrants?   

The people who are arriving in Chicago came to the United States after traveling for days or weeks. They have come from places like Venezuela, Colombia, and other countries in order to seek asylum. Federal law allows people who flee their home countries to escape persecution to seek asylum in the U.S., and requesting asylum grants them legal protection and the right to remain in the United States as an “asylee.” Every person who has arrived on the buses from Texas has been permitted entry by the federal government as they await the opportunity to present their asylum case.   

Asylum seekers are following what U.S. law requires. In order to seek asylum, people must physically come to the United States and present themselves to an official to declare their request for asylum. Once here, they are granted entry as they wait to present their case at an appointed time. 

Why do these asylum seekers need so much help? 

An asylum seeker may wait months before getting the chance to present their case for asylum. During this time, they need money to live and a place to stay just like everyone else. However, there is little to no financial provision from the U.S. Government for asylum seekers. Additionally, they are not legally allowed to work in the U.S. until they have received work authorization. That process can take 6-9 months. This puts many families at risk of homelessness and makes them very vulnerable to predatory actors and poverty. Programs like World Relief’s HOME program give opportunities for the community to come alongside asylum seekers during this difficult time – helping people get stable housing and other support while they wait for their asylum claim to be heard.

I’m worried about drugs and crime coming into my community. 

It is concerning to see the rise in drug-related deaths linked to fentanyl. However, historically, people seeking safety and asylum are not a major cause of increased drug availability. There is substantial evidence that the majority of people who smuggle fentanyl and other drugs into the U.S. are actually U.S. citizens. In fact, most of the fentanyl that comes into the country is from truckers or U.S. citizens coming legally through ports of entry. It’s not from undocumented immigrants or asylum seekers.  

Generally, migrants are not more likely to engage in criminal behavior. In fact, both documented and undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born citizens!

One way we can help protect our communities and those who have recently arrived is by providing support to families and individuals who are in particularly desperate and vulnerable situations.  Asylum seekers are uniquely vulnerable due to fleeing persecution, war, violence, or extreme poverty and not having support in the U.S. When our community responds to help newcomers, like those arriving on buses from Texas, we actually make the community safer and more welcoming for everyone!

What can I do to help the asylum seekers in my community? 

Each year, hundreds of people like you, and churches across the Chicagoland region, make our community a welcoming place for refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants. We are so grateful for people like you who have the heart to help others! You can help the recent newcomers by giving to the asylum program at World Relief Chicagoland. 

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