Migrants Chicago: City struggles to find space

CHICAGO (WLS) — The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications said seven buses of migrants are expected to arrive in the city Wednesday, which follows at least seven that arrived Tuesday.

As scores of asylum seekers are dropped off in Chicago daily, city leaders are grappling with how to handle the influx of new arrivals.

Hundreds of migrants from the southern border arrived in Chicago Wednesday on yellow school buses, as the city continues to get a grip on the growing humanitarian crisis.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez said Wednesday that another migrant shelter is opening in Pilsen, on the 2200-block of South Halsted Street.

It’s unclear when exactly that will happen, and how many migrants will be placed there.

One woman arrived in Chicago Wednesday with her two children, after crossing the border in Mexico.

She said they left Saturday, and got on the bus to Chicago around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. She said she went through the whole immigration process to get to the city.

The journey took 16 hours, and she let family members in the area know when they were going to arrive.

Sigcho-Lopez, the 25th Ward alderman, said the city is sometimes getting less than 24 hours’ notice when buses packed with migrants are set to arrive, giving leaders little time to make any space available.

“We see clearly an attempt to destabilize; we are out of capacity, and we need neighboring municipalities helping us,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “We got to make sure we don’t allow politicians to play with peoples’ lives. We have to do what’s right.”

He said nearby cities and suburbs need to work with the city to help lift some of the weight off Chicago’s already taxed shoulders.

“We are in capacity. We right now do not have any municipality outside the city of Chicago who is willing to accept any buses,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

City data show that over 15,000 migrants have been brought to Chicago since August 2022.

Currently, more than 9,200 are in city shelters.

There are 2,093 still awaiting placement, and 1,730 are sleeping in Chicago police stations.

“I’ve seen it go anywhere from like 50 to 98 per bus, so you’re looking at hundreds coming in every day, and I said months ago that you’re only going to see it scale up as you get closer to the Democratic Convention,” 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez said. “There’s plenty of space in Illinois, but it feels like Chicago is the one bearing the brunt, as if we’re not a welcoming state.”

Vasquez is the chairman of the City Council’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Committee.

With Chicago playing host to the 2024 Democratic National Convention next August, Vasquez said more and more busloads of migrants are likely to arrive in the months ahead.

“You’re going to see Chicago not being able to handle it. The Democratic Party will be framed as a disaster; the city will be framed as a disaster,” Vasquez said.

He said there needs to be more state and federal support for the city.

“Since the DNC, the Democratic Convention was announced in Chicago, we have received over 160 buses,” Vasquez said. “The fact that you’re seeing it ramp up this much should be a bellwether for what it’s going to look like the closer you get to next August, and that’s why we have to prepare.”

With Chicago’s brutal winter months on the horizon, the executive director of the Chicago Refugee Coalition, a nonprofit helping many of the new arrivals, said she has her own concerns about the city’s plans to move migrants into massive tent base camps across the city.

“In certain humanitarian environments, putting individuals into tents is a durable solution,” Alisa Bhachu said. “I would just respectfully challenge the individuals who are at the helm of making these strategic decisions to consider would they want their children housed in a tent over double digit below zero Chicago winter?”

Nearly 300 buses of migrants have arrived in Chicago since last August.

It’s unclear how many buses are set to arrive in the city Thursday.

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