Chicago City


Chicago is known as a “Rust Belt” city that has suffered economically and demographically from the shift in the United States economy from manufacturing to information technology.

But the wave of immigration that took place in the 1990s added population and vitality to US cities as diverse as Portland, Columbus, and St. Paul, says Attorney Richard Herman, prominent US immigration lawyer and founder of the Herman Legal Group. The same process could happen in Chicago.

Revitalization through new immigration has worked for Chicago, Illinois in the past, and could do so again. Currently, A stunning 1.6 million immigrants reside in Greater Chicago — nearly 20 percent of the city’s total population — compared to about 14 percent for the entire state of Illinois.

These changes have not taken place without complaints from some native-born Americans, It’s difficult to argue, however, that immigrants as a whole represent a burden on the local economy.

Immigrants Crosswalking in Long-Exposure

The Immense Contributions of Immigrants to the Chicago Economy

In 2017, well over 100,000 immigrant entrepreneurs called Chicago, Illinois home, and Chicago immigrants of all occupations held nearly $45 billion in spending power. To put $45 billion into perspective, this amount is approximately equal to the total annual GDP of the entire nation of Bolivia, a country with a population of more than 11 million people. As a consequence, these “burdensome” Chicago immigrants pay nearly $17 billion in taxes every year.

Don’t want to live next door to an immigrant? You might want to reconsider that idea, since a Duke University study concluded that new immigrants helped prop up home values in entire neighborhoods as they move into formerly decaying areas of town and revitalize them by triggering a positive feedback loop in which new residents move into an area that is now seen as “on its way up.”

Mexican Immigrant

New Immigration, Chicago and the Federal Immigration Authorities

Unfortunately, since 2015 more immigrants have been moving out of Chicago than into it, due in large part to national immigration policy.

This decline is certainly not caused by hostile local initiatives — in fact, Chicago, Illinois is rated as the most immigrant-friendly city in America by the New American Economy, a prominent immigrant advocacy organization.

This rating is based on Chicago’s immigrant-friendly local policies and positive socioeconomic outcomes.

The decline in new immigrants is caused largely by two factors: (i) Mexican immigrants choosing to migrate to smaller Sun Belt cities and taking jobs in the information economy, and (ii) the Trump administration immigration crackdown, which has complicated the immigration process and reduced the number of new immigrants everywhere, including Chicago IL.

A shift in national political winds combined with a well-planned local effort to attract new immigrants could eliminate both of these obstacles.

Chicago History

Chicago’s Immigration History

Chicago IL has been the Midwest’s most internationalized city for at least 150 years now. In 1870, for example, nearly 50 percent of its population was foreign-born — the most of any city in the US or Canada. That number had decreased to 35 percent by 1900, to 20 percent by 1940, and to only 11 percent by 1970.

The 2017 figure of 19 percent represents a reversal of Chicago immigration’s long-term decline, despite setbacks in recent years.

By 1880 Chicago’s percentage of people born abroad had fallen behind New York City. Even then, however, Chicago managed to maintain its second-place position for another 80 years, until 1960.

  • In the mid-1800s immigrants arrived in Chicago primarily from Ireland and Germany,
  • The Irish and the Germans were followed by large numbers of Russian Jews, Italians, and Slavs of various nationalities arriving in Chicago around the turn of the 20th century.
  • The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 abolished the old national quota system, opening up a new, previously blocked avenue for immigration. The result has been the immigration of large numbers of Asians and Latin Americans to Chicago since then.
Mexicans in street

Immigration: Recent History and the Current State of Affairs

By 2006 Chicago could boast several major immigration corridors:

  • The Latino community was centered around the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Additionally, smaller Latino neighborhoods dotted the city. In 2006 Latinos made up nearly 30 percent of Chicago’s residents, but this number has declined in recent years. Mexicans still account for most of Chicago’s Latino population.
  • On Chicago’s Northwest Side sits the Eastern European community, with Polish immigrants in the majority. It is sad, perhaps accurately, that only Warsaw has more Polish people than Chicago does. This community also includes Serbs, Croats, Romanians, Russians, Bulgarians, and other Eastern European ethnic groups.
  • Devon Avenue on Chicago’s North Side was home to a rapidly growing community of South Asians, primarily from India and Pakistan.
  • Chicago’s Chinatown sat just below the Loop, while a newer “Asia Town” on Chicago’s North Side houses many Vietnamese, Thai, and other Southeast Asian communities.
  • Many smaller Arab communities were scattered throughout Chicago.
  • African immigrants were starting to congregate on Chicago’s North Side.

Most of these descriptions of the Chicago immigrant community remain accurate today. The most pronounced Chicago immigration trend in the 21st century, however, has been a net loss of Mexicans, with serious (and disturbing) consequences, since Chicago’s native-born population has been shrinking for decades.

Chicago’s net immigration decline, not limited to Mexicans, may have to be reversed before Chicago can transcend its “Rust Belt” image.

Chicago City Hall

Chicago’s Available Immigration Services and Community Resources

The Chicago City Hall

The address of the Chicago City Hall is in the Cook County Building, 121 N. LaSalle St., while the Chicago Mayor’s Office is located in the same building at Unit 507. The telephone number for the Mayor’s Office is (312) 744-3300.

Local Immigration Services and Facilities

The USCIS maintains a Chicago Field Office for the convenience of local immigrants. Unfortunately, there is no USCIS Application Support Center (for fingerprinting, etc.) in Chicago proper. Instead, it is located in the suburb of Burbank at, 8004 B South Cicero Avenue, less than 15 miles from downtown Chicago.

The USCIS maintains a Chicago Field Office for the convenience of local immigrants. Unfortunately, there is no USCIS Application Support Center (for fingerprinting, etc.) in Chicago proper. Instead, it is located in the suburb of Burbank at, 8004 B South Cicero Avenue, less than 15 miles from downtown Chicago.

ICE Offices

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintains a Chicago Field Office on Ida B Wells Drive, and the Chicago Immigration Court is located at 525 West Van Buren Street, Suite 500. Suite 701 in the same building houses the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, which provides legal advice to ICE personnel.

There are no available immigration detention centers in Chicago. Instead, it contracts with local jails in downstate Illinois to provide detention space.

Immigration detention centers mainly house immigrants who are suspected of immigration violations such as illegal entry, or who are awaiting deportation or deportation proceedings. For further information, contact one of the three available immigration detention centers located in Illinois:

The Pulaski County Detention Center
Address:1026 Shawnee College Rd., Ullin, Illinois 62992
Phone: (262) 618-845-3512

The McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility
Address: 2200 N. Seminary, Woodstock, Illinois 60098
Phone: (262) 815-338-9396

The Jefferson County Jail
Address: 911 Casey Avenue, Mt. Vernon, Illinois 62864
Phone: (262) 618-244-8015

US Custom and Border Protection

US Customs and Border Protection, the law enforcement agency that secures US borders, maintains a Field Office in Chicago at 610 S. Canal Street. Room 300.

USCPB Deferred Inspection Site

The USCPB Deferred Inspection Site, which assists immigrants who (i) were scheduled for deferred immigration inspection (which normally takes place upon arrival at a US port of entry) or (ii) believe that the documentation issued at the port of entry is mistaken and require correction, is located at 536 S. Clark Street, Suite 131. They are available by telephone at (312) 542-4910.

Brazil Consulate

Foreign Consulates in Chicago

A consulate could be aptly described as a regional embassy. Every country that has diplomatic relations with the United States maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C., and some of these countries also maintain consulate offices in major cities throughout the US. Given Chicago’s status as the nation’s third-largest city (and the largest city in the Midwest), a large number of foreign consulates are available in Chicago, including:

Your local consulate can provide you with many different types of assistance, some of which might even help you with S immigration issues. Consulates are also good sources for information about local immigrant communities.

Health Care

Health Care Resources for Immigrants: International Programs and Patient Services at Chicago Hospitals

People come to Chicago from all over the world seeking medical treatment. Many of these patients do not speak English, which makes it difficult to obtain critical information from them. In response to this situation, many Chicago hospitals have established international programs, a small sampling of which is listed below:

Group of Immigrants

Immigrant Advocacy and Assistance Groups in Chicago

So many immigrant advocacy and assistance groups have been established in Chicago, that listing and describing them all would require a separate publication. Below is a listing of some of these organizations, together with links to their websites. These groups will provide you with information and assistance. As an immigrant, you are never alone in Chicago, and there is always an avenue of assistance available to you.

The National Immigration Legal Services Directory provides detailed information about immigration advocacy groups in Chicago as well as throughout the state of Illinois.

International Religous Chuch

International Religious Institutions and Houses of Worship in Chicago

Ethnic Media

Ethnic Media

Chicago is home to a wide variety of ethnic media that provide valuable information to various immigrant communities. These media include but are definitely not limited to:

Ethnic Festival

Chicago Ethnic Festivals

Chicago is home to dozens of annual ethnic festivals, especially in the summer. Some of the most prominent among them include:

Image of multiethnic group of happy young students walking outdoors.

Offices of International Student Affairs for Major Chicago Universities and Institutes of Higher Education

Chicago is home to more than 100 institutes of higher education. These with significant populations of international students (most of the larger ones) typically maintain an international student office. Following is a partial listing:

Several Chicago hospitals also offer Observership programs for foreign medical graduates.

Ethnic Grocery Store

Ethnic Grocery Stores

Chicago is also home to countless ethnic grocery stores. Only a few are listed below.

Sister City

Sister Cities

The Chicago Sister Cities Program is a non-profit program that connects Chicago with cities throughout the world through cooperative programs in culture, arts, tourism, global education, government relations, and international business. Altogether, Chicago maintains 29 sister city relationships:

  • Bogota, Columbia;
  • Delhi, India;
  • Lahore, Pakistan;
  • Moscow, Russia;
  • Shanghai, China;
  • Accra, Ghana;
  • Amman, Jordan;
  • Athens, Greece;
  • Casablanca, Morocco;
  • Durban, South Africa;
  • Lucerne, Switzerland;
  • Mexico City, Mexico;
  • Petach Tikva, Israel;
  • Prague, Czech Republic;
  • Warsaw, Poland;
  • Belgrade, Serbia;
  • Birmingham, United Kingdom;
  • Busan, South Korea;
  • Galway, Ireland;
  • Gothenburg, Sweden;
  • Kiev, Ukraine;
  • Milan, Italy;
  • Moscow, Russia;
  • Osaka, Japan;
  • Paris, France;
  • Shenyang, China;
  • Sydney, Australia;
  • Toronto, Canada;
  • Vilnius, Lithuania.
Chicago Sports

Leisure and Sports in Chicago

Because Chicago lies on the shore of Lake Michigan, outdoor activities are plentiful, with most of them revolving around the lake or its shores.

  • For those who prefer not to venture into the water (especially on days when it’s too cold for that), the Chicago Lakefront Trail runs 19 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan. It passes through downtown Chicago with convenient access to many cultural and tourist attractions.
  • Chicago Sailboat Charters will rent you a sailboat for Lake Michigan for prices that are reasonable for groups of up to eight people. The Chicago skyline is stunning from the middle of Lake Michigan.
  • Oak Street Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Chicago, but it is only one of many.
  • For most people, indoor activities are more popular in the winter because Chicago gets cold, and the wind chill factor of the self-proclaimed “Windy City” makes it feel even colder. When the weather is too cold to enjoy Lake Michigan, Chicago offers a wide variety of cultural attractions including the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Adler Planetarium, and the Oriental Institute Museum. Indeed, the options are nearly endless.
Good Lawyer

What a Good Immigration Lawyer Can Do for You

Immigration law is deceptively complex and highly detail-oriented, which is why you probably need a Chicago immigration lawyer if the issue at stake is important to you. Remember — immigration law is federal law. There is no such thing as Illinois immigration law, and this should affect your choice of an immigration lawyer. You might feel you need to retain an Illinois immigration lawyer — but then again, a lawyer from a nearby state may do just as well or even better.

Following are only a few of the benefits offered by an experienced, skilled, and committed immigration lawyer:

1. Avoid common pitfalls. A single small error, such as the submission of a photocopy rather than a certified copy of a document, or the omission of a seemingly insignificant bit of information, could set you back for months or even lead to a final rejection of your application.

2. Explain your options. It is likely that you have immigration options that you are not aware of. If you live overseas and you plan to marry your fiancé(e) there, apply for an immigration visa to the US and wait for your green card to be mailed to you, did you know that you could likely enter the US sooner by applying for a fiancé(e) visa and waiting until you get to the US to marry? A good immigration lawyer can suggest options you might never think of.

3. Help you prepare for any green card interview you might be required to attend. Your lawyer can even attend the interview with you.

4. Help you formulate a long-term strategy (depending on your immigration goals).

5. Provide you with valuable information about recent changes in immigration law.

Immigration Lawyers

Now is the Time to Seek Assistance from the Immigration Professionals

The Herman Legal Group represents clients in Chicago as well as throughout the United States and the world. We speak over a dozen languages, and we have been in business for more than a quarter of a century. Contact us 24/7 by calling us at +1-216-696-6170 or by filling out our information form online, so that we can schedule you a consultation.

At Herman Legal Group, Your Future Matters Most
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