Destinos & Empowerment: A New Arrivals Series with National Able Network

“I never had a plan to go anywhere [outside of Venezuela],” says William Paul Mijares, a 46-year-old new Chicago resident, “But things were getting worse every time. I couldn’t find a job.” William was well-prepared for three different careers with the educational degrees and experiences to support each one: English teacher, industrial safety expert, and SWAT-team equivalent police officer. The most serious problems began when William worked as the head of security for a television station that very publicly and directly opposed the current Venezuelan government. Due to his role in security at that media channel as well as his background in police work, the government’s enforcers associated him with the opposing political group, and began to follow and harass William. At one point, William was shot and the bullet fragments remain in his body to this today.  

He left Venezuela and attempted to find work in neighboring countries, but the Venezuelan government’s reach seemed limitless. “The only place that is directly opposing the government there is the United States, and that’s why I decided to come here,” says William, “Everywhere else in Latin America, there is no peace.” So, William had to leave – not only for safety and opportunity, but for survival. William made the journey through the dangerous Darien Gap and half a dozen different countries to arrive in Mexico. On August 28, 2022, William entered the United States through Texas.  

“I was supposed to go to New York, but I ended up in Chicago just by destiny,” says William. “And after living the life I did in Venezuela…yes, the life of an immigrant is complicated, but you find a way to survive.” Once he received asylum and his work permit, William recalls that job searching in the U.S. was quite different than in his native Venezuela, “Here you have to follow a process, and you have to give all your information. I had a resume but it’s completely different than we do it over there.” Destiny found William once again when he visited National Able Network’s American Job Center in Pilsen. “I came in and received a lot of help from the very first time…they are very good people, not only professionally but as human beings. I’m receiving all of the support.”  

William found stable and fulfilling employment as Community Worker Supervisor, where he leads a team and provides assistance and guidance to fellow new arrivals. In addition to finding work, William was eventually joined in the United States by his wife and his two youngest children. Now that he has family here, is employed, and is safe, William reflects on what he hopes for the future, “We just want to belong and feel like we belong. National Able Network makes me feel like I belong to something and that I belong here. And that’s what I’m trying to give back to the community, as well as just to give the best of me.”