Welcome to IL – Economic Development Committee

Thank you for the opportunity to share this idea that I feel is crucial for the effective and efficient assistance and integration of the newly-arrived immigrants and our other immigrant communities. Even though the Economic Development Committee was small we all agreed that it was very important to continue with it and meet further to discuss the need that exists and to promote this topic now rather than later.

The newly-arrived immigrants are in a catch-22 situation. The majority of them will take several months to submit their application for Asylum, and they cannot work formally without an EAD (Employment Authorization Document), or work permit. They cannot apply for an EAD until six months AFTER submitting their Asylum Application, and they will not get their work permit until a year AFTER submitting their application.

In the meantime, they need to survive and provide for their families, and we as advocates need to find a way to help them become independent of the system as soon as possible.

As they seek work, they are subject to abuse and are taken advantage of because of their immigration status, often having to take low-wage jobs where they are not paid minimum wage, are forced to work long hours without getting paid overtime, or face unfair compensation for work that is done under the table. They often take jobs where there is no job training or protective equipment for dangerous jobs, where their rights are violated or where fear of losing their job forces them tolerate poor working conditions and mistreatment.

It is essential that we bring the issue of economic development to the planning committee for a fair and effective social integration in the short, medium and long term. Without an integral, methodical and well-planned economic integration, there cannot be a total integration into mainstream society for either the newly-arrived or the existing immigrant communities.

We asked ourselves if it’s too soon to think about the economic development of this population when their first concern is simply about survival. We agreed that now is the right time to plan ahead for their future needs, in order to assist in integrating them into the economy, sooner than the immigration process will be able to help them.

We also concurred that while the economic impact of migration has been studied at length, it is still often driven by misconceptions and misunderstandings, which, in turn, can lead to public animosity towards immigrants. These negative views might rally opinions against providing support and derail efforts to adapt migration policies to the new economic and demographic challenges faced in our communities.

A further challenge faced by this population is the fact that the established governmental, public and private entities that promote business and economic growth, often operate in a restrictive, selective and sometimes discriminatory manner towards this population, and eschew any training, or programs that would assist the refugees, and newly and recently established immigrants in starting their own small businesses.

However, every day we see statistics that show that refugees, newly-established immigrants and other foreign-born populations have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than even U.S.-born entrepreneurs.

According to a research conducted by the National Immigration Forum in 2016, thirteen percent of refugees are business owners, compared to 11.5 percent of non-refugee immigrants. Refugee-owned businesses generated $4.6 billion in income in 2015.

The study also showed that immigrants are playing an increasingly important role in business creation in the U.S., and that they have a greater inclination to start businesses than U.S.-born populations. Refugees and immigrants without a college degree are often more entrepreneurial, out of necessity.

Furthermore, businesses started by immigrant entrepreneurs create millions of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue. Immigrant entrepreneurs are not only providing for themselves and their families, but are helping establish and revitalize neighborhoods, cities and regions that have seen economic decline.

The newly-arrived immigrants, as well as the recently established foreign-born residents, in different parts of our city, suburbs and other states in the US, suffer the same inequity in the power to integrate into mainstream U.S., perpetuating the gaps in opportunities, economic development and the well-being of families, as they become increasingly concentrated in vulnerable and underserved neighborhoods throughout our city, state and the country.

If we take into consideration Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can analyze the framework or route of the economic development that immigrants follow in our country. There are three levels of economic needs and factors that refugees, newly-arrived and new foreign-born residents in our communities face in their quest to integrate into the main stream market, and that we should take into consideration when developing an economic development plan for these newly-arrived and other foreign-born residents.

Basic Needs: Survival measures, gaining employment, fending off poverty, providing for family.

If the newly-arrived cannot achieve these basic necessities they will struggle and face more serious challenges going forward.

Secondary Needs: Safety & security needs, achieving emotional well-being, laying a strong economic foundation, protecting the family.

It is important to understand that transportation, a driver’s license or state ID, and the acquisition of a car can be critical to the progress of the newly-arrived residents in Illinois. They will also be strengthened by being educated on basic labor and human rights that they are entitled to in our country.

Third Essential Needs: Connection, belonging, recognition, moving ahead and the ability to improve their lives.

In this tier of needs, the newly-arrived should have started their legal/immigration process at least 9 months prior to reaching this level, living in a better established environment, generating a more moderate income, and having a better, more stable, job or starting their own small business and achieving a better quality of life and well-being for their family.

It is important to understand that, as we mentioned in the beginning, the newly-arrived immigrants are in a catch-22 situation, because they cannot obtain a work permit for at least a year after entering the U.S. and submitting their I-589 Asylum application. It is imperative that we get creative, think of new possibilities and propose different strategies to assist and achieve a more effective and efficient social and economic integration into main stream society.


For example, the newly-arrived immigrants are eligible to apply for and obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), much earlier than obtaining a work permit (EAD), allowing them to open a bank account and get a driver’s license. They may even obtain an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN), allowing them to open a business bank account, apply for business licenses and file tax returns for their business.

Forming a collaborative or cooperative with other newly-arrived immigrants with their ITIN would enable an individual to be hired and paid by this cooperative while they wait for their employment authorization.

These approaches need to be analyzed and well-planned to avoid further issues in impeding the integration of the newly-arrived into U.S. society. We feel that an Economic Development Plan should be structure and implemented soon to ensure that we do not maintain the same barriers that have blocked the pathway towards equity and economic fairness and a better-balanced society for immigrants in this state.