Sonia, a 24-year-old woman from Honduras who is seeking asylum in the U.S., gazes out of a window at the National Immigrant Justice Center in downtown Chicago on May 4, 2015. She was part of a wave of children and women with children who fled Central America over the past year. After they arrived, however, many couldn't find a lawyer to represent them in court. Sonia, who was trying to escape an abusive partner, asked The Reporter not to use her last name because she fears for her safety and wants to protect her family back home.

Finding a lawyer a huge obstacle for asylum seekers in Chicago

In Chicago immigration court, which has seen almost 1,500 cases of women with children since last year, less than 14 percent are represented by a lawyer. That’s less than half the national rate for this group. Legal representation is critical. Women and children with an attorney are 16 times more likely to be allowed to stay in the U.S. than those without an attorney.

Activists and families gather for the "Million Voices for Immigration Reform" rally in downtown Los Angeles in September 2013. About 3,000 people attended the event.

Three faces of immigration

President Obama recently announced a plan to offer administrative relief to some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The Chicago Reporter spoke to three Chicago residents who have at a lot at stake in the immigration debate.

Maria Garcia (center), 37, graduates from the University of Illinois' Labor Education Program at Arise Chicago in November. She has been attending classes every other Saturday for two months to learn leadership skills. Garcia works at least 40 hours a week at a Mexican eatery on Chicago’s Northwest Side, where she makes $9 an hour.

Making it work: Life on minimum wage

Maria Garcia, 37, came to the United States from Mexico when she was 16. She came, as she says, to work. Six years ago she left her husband and started supporting her six children on her own while earning a little more than minimum wage. Garcia’s story illustrates what it looks like to support a family on less than $10 an hour working more than full-time.

Andy Paz 13, originally from Honduras, leaves immigration court in Chicago with his mother Sandra Paz Martinez, after learning he will be allowed to stay in the United States until at least July 2015 while he applies for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. [Photo by William Camargo]

Advocates urge more mental health services for unaccompanied immigrant children

Unaccompanied minors face temporary displacement, language barriers and other challenges that can lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious mental health problems, according to research. Advocates say more services, such as talk therapy and support groups, are needed to help them deal with the stress and trauma they have experienced.

A protester waves a flag during the March for a Moratorium on Deportations at Daley Plaza on Jan. 21, 2013 [Credit: Lucio Villa]

How President Obama’s immigration policy could affect Illinois

Critics said President Obama overstepped his power when he used his executive authority Thursday to provide deportation relief and temporary permission to work to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Others said the reforms did not go far enough. The Migration Policy Institute, based in Washington, D.C., estimates that nearly half of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. could benefit from the executive actions. Nationwide up to 3.8 million undocumented immigrants will be newly eligible for deportation relief, according to the Pew Research Center. How will Obama’s executive order affect Illinois?