Piotrowski Park serving as temporary respite center for migrants after Title 42 expires

Saturday, May 13, 2023
SW Side park serving as temporary respite center for migrants
Piotrowski Park in Little Village started serving as a temporary respite center for Chicago migrants after Title 42 officially expired.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Piotrowski Park in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood started serving as a temporary respite center on Saturday.

A yellow school bus pulled up just before noon filled with Venezuelan migrants, new to this country and anxious for shelter.

Chicago braces for more migrants Friday as the Title 42 border policy officially expires.

Rather than the floor of the police station where they had been staying, Alderman Michael Rodriguez has helped arrange the park district facility to temporarily house them.

"The migrants are dealing with a lot. They have travelled months to get there and the least we can do is provide some basic humanity for them," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said families with children will be housed at the facility allowing for recreational activity at the park. Single adults will stay elsewhere.

Many migrants gathered along the U.S.-Mexico border are worried about their chances of claiming asylum in the United States now that Title 42 immigration restrictions have been lif

Arely Andrew said the scene reminds her of her own experience more than 25 years ago when she first came to Chicago from Mexico with nothing. Andrew now owns a Las Toxicas restaurant and several sidewalk stands.

"If you're a hard worker, you have everything. Nothing is impossible. You can make it," Andrew said.

Andrew said she plans to offer to help feed the migrants staying there.

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It's unclear how many more will be coming. With the expiration of Title 42 which allowed the U-S to send migrants back home because of concerns over Covid-19... border officials are expecting a huge influx of people crossing the border. With many of them bused to northern cities like Chicago.

The Little Village Council is among those offering help.

"That's our goal. For them to get jobs and be part of the community and welcome them home," said Enrique Baltazar of the Little Village Council.

Juan Aguirre is housing some migrants at a nearby warehouse.

"Just seeing the amount of trauma that these people have experienced is overwhelming for me, but knowing that we are giving them a sense of hope and love, and a sense of community, is really fulfilling," said Juan Aguirre of the National Equity Institute.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared the situation an emergency allowing state and federal resources to be used. Alderman Rodriguez saod he hopes incoming mayor Brandon Johnson is prepared.

"I think there will be a major commitment to this issue," Rodriguez said.

South Shore residents are opposing bringing migrants into the shuttered South Shore High School and they have taken legal action, filing a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order.

Chicago has taken in 8,000 migrants since August, and more than 200 a day have flooded into the city crowding police stations and other public spaces.

The city has officially declared a state of emergency.