December 2, 2018

Mayor Emanuel Announces Chicago’s Legal Protection Fund Serves Record Number In The City’s Immigrant Community

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined community volunteers and city leaders to announce that Chicago’s Legal Protection Fund has served a record  50,000 immigrants through community based outreach, education, legal consultations and courtroom representation – surpassing all second year goals. 

“Our partners have done incredible work over the past several years to ensure the lives of all our residents are protected and supported,” said Mayor Emanuel. “When we stand up for our immigrant and refugee communities, we are standing up for the American Dream. And I want to thank all of the attorneys, community organizations and local volunteers who have been fighting to ensure that dream remains a reality here in Chicago.”

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) provides the legal screenings and representation for the Fund with the pro bono support from more than 10 local law firms. According to a report by the American Immigration Council, even though immigrants who have lawyers are nearly five times more likely to win their cases than those without lawyers, the U.S. government does not offer appointed counsel to immigrants facing deportation.

“Now more than ever, immigrants and their families are facing a system that is riddled with obstacles and arbitrary decision-making. Being represented by a legal service provider who knows the law often is what makes the difference between being deported without due process, or being able to remain in the Unites States and seek a just outcome that keeps families and communities together,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, NIJC Executive Director.

The Resurrection Project (TRP) leads the Fund’s Community Navigator Program, which provides residents support and counseling on strategies to protect their families and obtain legal status. TRP, in partnership with eight community organizations, have trained more than 500 community volunteers and conducted over 500 Know Your Rights training sessions.

“We are proud of the work that the community navigators of the Legal Protection Fund have done. They are helping thousands of immigrants protect themselves, their families and their communities, as well as their communities’ economies,” The Resurrection Project CEO Raul Raymundo said.

The Legal Protection Fund was first established in January 2017, to assist immigrants and refugees in the City who were threatened with the risk of deportation in the post-election era. 

Partnering organizations include: Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Centro Romero, Erie Neighborhood House, Hana Center, Indo-American Center, Instituto del Progreso Latino, National Partnership for New Americans, Southwest Organizing Project, and United African Organization. Administered through the Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Resurrection Project.

Pro bono supporters include: Bryan Cave; Cozen O’Connor P.C.; Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP; Immigration Global; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Winston & Strawn LLP.

New data released today by New American Economy (NAE) and the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition shows that immigrants represented 36 percent of entrepreneurs in Chicago and generated $659 million in business income in 2016.  The report also shows that immigrants held nearly a quarter of the spending power among the city’s residents, earned nearly $17 billion in household income, and paid $6 billion in taxes in 2016.

“Immigration has always been critical to the success of America’s great cities, and this new data out of Chicago underscores that fact,” said Rich André, Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “The numbers show that across Chicago, immigrants are creating jobs, bolstering the tax base, and putting down roots. Chicago’s strong performance in the NAE Cities Index is evidence that the city recognizes this, and is committed to including immigrants in the economic and civic fabric of the city to the benefit of all its residents.”

In addition to their financial contributions, the report shows the foreign-born population’s role as contributors to the workforce in Chicago. It also shows that immigrants in Chicago are putting down roots in the US; with nearly half of all immigrants in Chicago were naturalized citizens in 2016.

"Whether you are looking at high-tech industries or farm labor, hospitals or lawn maintenance, we need the immigrants," Said John Rowe, Exelon Chairman Emeritus and Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Co Chair “Since when is it conservative to tell people they can't work and pay taxes."

The new report was produced by in partnership with the Chicago Mayor’s Office of New Americans and finds:

  • Immigrants play an outsize role as entrepreneurs in the city. Despite making up 20.7 percent of the overall population, immigrant represented 36.4 percent of Chicago’s entrepreneurs in 2016. They owned more than 39,000 businesses in the city that generated $659.2 million in income that year. Immigrants were also 67.4 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs than their U.S.-born counterparts.
  • Immigrants’ households earned $16.9 billion in 2016. They also held $10.9 billion in spending power. This means that foreign-born households held 22.4 percent of all spending power in Chicago, more than their share of the city’s population.
  • Given their income, immigrants contributed significantly to federal, state, and local taxes. Immigrants paid $4.4 billion in federal taxes and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2016.
  • Despite making up just 20.7 percent of the overall population in the city, immigrants played an outsize role in the labor force in 2016. Foreign-born workers represented 24.3 percent of the working-age population, 25.5 percent of its employed labor force, and 26.9 percent of all workers in STEM fields in Chicago.
  • Immigrants play a critical role in several key industries in the city. Though they are 20.7 percent of the population, foreign-born workers made up 48.0 percent of all workers in the manufacturing industry and 34.9 percent of workers in the accommodation and recreation industry.
  • Nearly half of immigrants and refugees in Chicago—or more than 248,678 individuals—were naturalized citizens in 2016. 26.4 percent of the non-citizen population was likely eligible to naturalize.

Chicago is one of 44 communities selected for the Gateways for Growth Challenge, a competitive opportunity from New American Economy and Welcoming America where local communities receive tailored research on the contributions of immigrants, direct technical assistance to develop multi-sector plans for welcoming and integrating immigrants, or matching grants. See Chicago’s full report here:

Since taking office, Mayor Emanuel has also launched a series of initiatives that improve the immigrant community’s access to service, expand new and existing immigrant businesses, and welcomes and celebrates Chicago’s diverse immigrant communities. These initiatives include launching the Cities for Citizenship Campaign with the Mayors of New York City and Los Angeles, which has grown into a bipartisan effort which works with nearly 71 City and county leaders across America.

 For more information on these and other efforts, visit

About New American Economy

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. Learn more at