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After three months of living in her new home in Chicago, Safia is struggling to figure out how to navigate the U.S. immigration system.
Safia, 30, fled her native Afghanistan in August after the Taliban seized political power. She thought her work to empower women in Afghanistan tied to the U.S. made her eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, but she later learned she will likely have to apply for asylum.
“Most of the people don’t know about this process,” said Safia, who asked that her full name not be used because her family remains in Afghanistan. “They just think that, OK, U.S. helped us to come to America, that’s it and they’re happy with that. They don’t know that the next process that you have to apply for your (immigration) case and you have to have a lawyer to defend you.”
The uncertainty around her immigration status is one reason why she and others say that the newly arrived Afghans need more legal and financial assistance as they settle in Chicago. Another recently arrived Afghan said he is having difficulty figuring out how to pay rent after he moved to Chicago from his original resettlement city.
As of Feb. 1, more than 1,890 Afghans have resettled in Illinois since last fall’s evacuations in Afghanistan, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. Another wave of Afghans — about 400 — are expected to arrive this month in Illinois. In total, there could be up to 3,000 Afghans who end up calling Illinois home.
The number of arriving refugees is a sharp contrast to how many people the United States welcomed during former President Donald Trump’s administration. From October 2018 to September 2019, Illinois resettled 1,005 refugees, including 18 from Afghanistan, according to data from the State Department.
More news you need
- The tax trial of Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson got underway this morning with jury selection at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Jon Seidel and Tim Novak have more as Thompson faces charges for allegedly filing false tax returns and lying to federal regulators.
- To combat the recent trend of high-profile smash-and-grab retail thefts in the Chicago area, Illinois attorney general Kwame Raoul today introduced a draft bill that would create a new criminal charge: organized retail crime. Josephine Stratman has more on the legislation, which Raoul unveiled alongside the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot will try again later this week to salvage her troubled nomination of Andrea Kersten to head the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Lightfoot’s allies have rallied to try to save Kersten’s nomination, but the mayor’s “risking an embarrassing defeat,” Fran Spielman writes.
- Production at Ford’s Chicago site will stop for a week because of the ongoing shortage of microchips needed to run the vehicles’ electronics. The union that represents most of the plant’s 5,800 workers says they will get 75-80% of their pay during closures when accounting for unemployment benefits.
- The second season of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind,” which debuts Friday, features Chicagoans hoping to find their soulmates. Here’s more on why the production chose Chicago and how they found this season’s contestants.
A bright one
When Nate Simon was at LA Fashion Week to model for a celebrity designer in early October, a group of men stopped the 19-year-old Special Olympics Chicago athlete and looked to him for advice.
“We’re here to help change the world, Nate. What do we need to do?” Simon’s mother recalled the men asking him.
Simon’s message was simple: “You need to love.”
That directive, which moved the men to tears, is nothing new from Simon, who has Down syndrome. He’s been spreading it on social media for more than a year; his sister’s TikTok, which he routinely is featured on, has more than 319,700 followers and garnered 9.9 million likes since December 2019. And it’s become the backbone of his clothing company, 21 Pineapples Shirt Co., which he co-founded last fall with a fellow TikTok star who goes by the name “Officer Daniels” on social media.
“I’m spreading awareness one funky shirt at a time,” Simon said.
Simon is an actor, model, chief executive officer of his own clothing brand and multisport athlete. He’s proud of all of his accomplishments but his most recent one might take the cake.
Simon designed a commemorative T-shirt for Special Olympics Chicago’s annual Polar Plunge, a charity event that raises money for the organization’s programming.
“That’s incredible,” he said of having a hand in creating the shirt, which is available for purchase starting Monday. A percentage of the shirts, water bottles and other swag is being donated to Special Olympics Chicago and Special Children’s Charities.
From the press box
- While the Blackhawks work toward hiring their next general manager, Ben Pope writes that it’s clear that man will mold the Hawks’ team and hockey operations department exactly how he wishes.
- Bulls coach Billy Donovan confirmed a report from Joe Cowley that Patrick Williams has been progressing ahead of schedule in his return from wrist surgery and could be back before the end of the regular season.
- Glenbard West basketball is in unfamiliar territory as one of the top high school teams in the country. Here’s how the Hilltoppers are dealing with the hype ahead of the postseason.
- Even with the loss to Sierra Canyon, Glenbard West remains No. 1 in Michael O’Brien’s latest Super 25 rankings.
- Bears season ticket prices are going up 6% for the 2022 season. There will be one notable difference next season: Instead of eight regular-season games and two preseason games, the team will host nine regular-season games and one preseason game.
- The Blackhawks fired the head trainer of the Rockford IceHogs, their AHL affiliate, in November for alleged sexual harassment.
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On Friday, we asked you: Is it ever OK to move someone’s dibs marker? Tell us why or why not. Here’s what some of you said...
“NO! Fun story: when I was a ‘city newbie’ I moved someone’s dibs and parked my car. Came out to find that they had poured so much water on my car, there was a sheet of ice on my doors at least a 1/2” thick.” — Ken Churilla
“No! No! No! No! No! Heaven help whoever decides to move someone’s dibs & take their parking spot. They spent time shoveling the spot out, they deserve to reserve the spot!” — Patricia Ramirez
“If everyone shovels their own car out then there isn't a need for dibs.” — Michael Waechter
“Yes, but only after all the snow has melted.” — Austlyn Nelson Uteg
“Absolutely. Nobody owns the street.” — Philip Minefee
“I move every dibbed chair I see, if everyone shoveled out a spot every time they parked there wouldn’t be a reason to have dibs. It’s a self-defeating custom that is ultimately selfish. It’s disrespectful to domestic workers and people that otherwise need it.” — Hayden Patrick Murray
“Depends on how much you value your life.” — Patricia Tabor
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