Chicago migrants: Brandon Johnson meets with 25 suburban mayors to discuss crisis

Monday, January 22, 2024
Johnson meets with 25 suburban mayors to discuss migrant crisis
As the Chicago migrant crisis continues, Mayor Brandon Johnson is meeting with 25 suburban mayors on Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On a cold, wet January day, migrants and their children hung out outside Streeterville's Inn of Chicago, one of the city's largest shelters.

With 28 full shelters and no funds to open up a new one, Mayor Brandon Johnson called a special meeting with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, which is made up of 25 mayors from surrounding suburbs.

The meeting started at 4 p.m. One of Johnson's asks is for more help to house new arrivals.

"Something I think we really need to be asking and wrestling with is, are we actually a welcoming state or a state with a welcoming city in it? That's what people should be thinking about," said Committee on Immigration and Refugee Rights Chairman Alderman Andre Vasquez.

Chicago City Council members have been pushing for municipalities to help share the burden. Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso said mayors have several questions for Johnson.

"I think all mayors want to be sure that their residents are safe and the migrants are safe, and that we have an understanding of how the process is going to work when migrants come," Grasso said.

While the city has no plans to open up new shelters any time soon, the state has allocated an extra $160 million to help, but Gov. JB Pritzker said he is waiting on the city for a plan.

"The city has not told the state where they would like us to put our resources to build new shelters or help them build new shelters, so we can't help if we can't identify those locations," Pritzker said.

Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor and others are concerned about how the city can continue to financially support the crisis.

"We don't have it, we can't continue to rob Peter to pay Paul to fix a crisis we didn't create," Taylor said.

Besides periodic briefings with members of city council, Taylor and others have been pushing the mayor to hold a special city council meeting on migrants, Taylor said, so everyone can come together at once to talk about solutions.

In the meantime, some alderpersons are hoping Johnson extends the 60-day shelter eviction policy again until the weather gets warmer.

A nonprofit group in New York City called EVLovesNYC has been feeding new arrivals there.

The founder warned Chicago to expect chaos when city-run shelter stay limits take effect on Feb. 1. Stay limits have already gone into effect in New York City.

The group said city policies like these have been very problematic, and while New York City has a larger asylum-seeker population than Chicago, they still expect a bigger crisis when the city starts evicting migrants from shelters.

"That's when you're gonna see children with nowhere to go. That's when you're gonna see adults with their whole life in a black backpack on their sleeping in a park corner. These are the scenes we are seeing every day," said Mammad Mahmoodi with EVLovesNYC.

Many migrant children in shelters are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools, and shelter eviction could mean those children might have to be transferred.