Mayor Lightfoot issues emergency declaration in response to surge of Chicago migrants

There is a migrant shelter shortage, mayor says

Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Emergency declaration issued amid Chicago migrant surge
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency declaration Tuesday in response to a migrant surge in the city.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency declaration Tuesday in response to the surge of migrants since last month.

Lightfoot issued a statement, saying large numbers of people, mostly families, have been arriving in Chicago, and 48 were bused to the city Tuesday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"We should all understand that this crisis will likely deepen before we see it get better, so as we move forward, the City of Chicago will have to bring additional locations online to prepare for the arrival of more individuals and families and to relieve Chicago Police Department districts," the statement said.

In the executive order, Lightfoot called on Gov. JB Pritzker to mobilize the National Guard to provide staffing and logistical support to address this emergency in Chicago.

The order also allows emergency funds to be moved to address the crisis involving mostly migrants from Central and South America sent to Democratic cities like Chicago.

RELATED | Mayor Lightfoot says city lacks funds for incoming migrants, Mayor-elect Johnson to inherit crisis

The order comes less than a week before Lightfoot is to leave office.

At the end of April, the mayor wrote a letter to Abbott, telling him Chicago had no more shelters or resources to accommodate the increase in migrants.

"We don't have any more space. I cannot emphasize that enough," Lightfoot said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Lightfoot gave an update Tuesday after issuing an emergency declaration for a migrant surge.

Lightfoot said, since August of 2022, Chicago has given sanctuary to over 8,000 migrants, who are currently housed in seven shelters and three respite locations in the city.

Over 450 migrants and migrant families are sleeping in police stations.

And with the pandemic-era Title 42 policy ending Thursday, an even larger flood of new arrivals is expected.

RELATED | Nearly 200 migrants found inside train car in southwest Texas, Kinney County deputies say

The mayor said the federal government needs to come up with a plan for migrants and expedite legal work permits for migrants.

The mayor also expressed disappointment with the response by the Biden administration and the only $4 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency money made available.

Lightfoot said McCormick Place and Navy Pier would not be used to house migrants. Shuttered big box stores are being looked at.

"We've looked at every available big box store. As I've said, it's not just a matter of space. It's a matter of space where we can manage a population humanely," she said.

Lightfoot said the city is still receiving 200 migrants a day, but there's no plan to bring in the National Guard just yet.

"We're not there yet, but staffing is the biggest expense that we are facing," Lightfoot said.

She said she hopes to move the migrants who are currently at Chicago police stations sooner than later.

"I don't know what she's waiting for. We should have been asking the state to provide services from the National Guard for months now," 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins said.

The alderman said the city should consider repurposing two National Guard armories.

"We've got the Northwest Armory. We've got the Richard Jones Armory on the South Side. These are massive buildings that could house hundreds if not thousands of displaced people while we figure out what to do," he said.

The mayor also said Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson was briefed on the emergency declaration, but didn't say if he agreed with it.

Lightfoot said the city has a plan moving forward, but offered few details.

Reps. Jesús "Chuy" García, Delia Ramirez and Jan Schakowsky led members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation Mike Quigley, Danny Davis, Sean Casten, Robin Kelly, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Jonathan L. Jackson in sending a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell urging them to prioritize the city of Chicago funding request and provide expedited reimbursement of the $20.5M through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to help address the needs of migrants.

Governor JB Pritzker's office released the following statement:

"Our administration has worked tirelessly in partnership with the City of Chicago to find temporary housing and provide resources for this ongoing response. The state has successfully resettled 2,000 people and continues to aid the City in its resettlement efforts. At this time, Mayor Lightfoot has not requested National Guard assistance and we look forward to working collaboratively with Mayor-elect Johnson's team.

"This year, $90 million was dedicated to assisting with the asylum seeker response both in the city and state. In total, $260 million in state funding has been committed to these efforts with $30 million going directly to the City of Chicago. Our administration is working with community-based partners, caseworkers, and our partners in government to ensure asylum seekers are provided with case management and housing assistance with an eye toward successful resettlement. The Governor is committed to pursuing every available option to assist people who have traveled for months to flee oppression in search of opportunity."