Chicago protest today: SW Side residents worry about community resources, contaminated soil
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of protesters, most of them residents of Brighton Park, came out once again to speak up against the city's plans to erect a winterized base camp for migrants at this vacant lot at 38th Street and California.
Mayor's Office Spokesperson Ronnie Reese said late Sunday that construction on the site will not begin Monday despite a Saturday letter from 12th Ward Alderwoman Julia Ramirez saying it would.
The city still plans to building a migrant camp there, however, in spite of soil tests showing the land is contaminated with toxic metals.
"A while back, they tried to put a playground. They couldn't. They tried to put a school. They couldn't," said longtime resident Ricardo Palacios. "People did background histories on this site. It was contaminated because it was a railroad track disposal."
For nearly six weeks now, a small contingent of residents has been out nearly every day to express their displeasure at the proposed camp, which they believe would drain already limited resources from those who live here.
"You have veterans out here. You got homeless. Why don't you take care of our people before anybody else?" Palacios said.
Many of the homes and businesses in the area have made their feelings clear, placing signs on their doors and windows. News that the soil is polluted has only heightened residents' opposition. Some say they don't trust that adequate remediation has been done.
"They should release the environmental report to the public, so we know how toxic this land is. They said they fixed it. By laying a thin layer of little stones that you put in your garden, OK. That's their fix," said resident Yuan Mo.
The winterized base camps, which would look something like those already erected in New York, would temporarily house up to 2,000 migrants, many of whom have been living at the airports and at police stations around the city.
Ramirez also reiterated her opposition, saying, in part, "It is essential for residents of this community to be fully aware of the environmental impacts and potential risks associated with this project. We have a right to know if the site is safe for both asylum seekers and community members at large."