Founder of employment law firm donates $100,000 toward Chicago’s migrant crisis

The founder of a law firm in Chicago is providing $100,000 to an organization on the Lower West Side that helps immigrants in one of the first large-scale monetary donations toward the migrant crisis.

Instituto del Progreso Latino, a decades-old nonprofit organization that provides education, training and employment resources to Latino communities, received the donation from David Fish, founder of the law firm Fish Potter Bolaños, P.C. The funds will support the organization’s Asylum Migrant Outreach Response, called Project AMOR.

The money comes as Chicago has struggled to help house and feed over 37,300 migrants who have come on buses from Texas since August 2022. State, county and city officials projected last month that $321 million will be needed to keep the migrant operation afloat through the end of 2024, according to the governor’s office.

“It’s really a drop in the bucket terms of what’s needed,” Fish said Wednesday. “I’m hoping other businesses and community members will come forward.”

Fish’s donation will provide migrants with monetary assistance for rent, after a state-funded program ran out of funding in mid-November. It will also provide legal aid or guidance to determine eligibility for work permit authorization, a document that allows migrants to be legally hired in the United States.

But many of the migrants who have arrived in Chicago can’t work legally. The process of applying for a work permit can cost close to $500 and take months to be approved.

Emmanuel Mandujano, director of career pathways and student support services for the Instituto said his organization provides wrap-around services that include English language classes, education and employment training.

“We are talking about … having these tools available to (migrant) families so that they can start a path toward self-sufficiency,” he said.

Mandujano has worked to help migrants since the first bus arrived in Chicago nearly two years ago and his team has grown to include multiple case managers and specialists to help respond to their needs. Fish said those responding to asylum-seekers should engage with nonprofits.

“We want to get (migrants) away from sitting in a shelter looking for a handout,” he said. “Instituto really focuses on making sure people can be self-sustaining.”

On Wednesday, there were more than 10,800 migrants in 23 active shelters run by the city and state, according to city data.