Mayor Brandon Johnson, Illinois' congressional delegation discuss migrant crisis in virtual meeting

Saturday, January 6, 2024
Johnson, members of Congress discuss migrant crisis in virtual meeting
Mayor Brandon Johnson and members of Illinois' congressional delegation met virtually to discuss the Chicago migrant crisis.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson met virtually with members of Illinois' congressional delegation on Friday in another pitch for help in dealing with the city's migrant crisis.

As the city's migrant mission continues to drain resources, Johnson once again urged Illinois' two senators and Chicago area members of Congress to help.

"The delegation is broadly supportive of the mission that we've had here in Chicago and our commitment to our welcoming city status and also committed to working as diligently as possible for resources," said Mayoral Senior Advisor Jason Lee. "Many of these members represent jurisdictions outside the city of Chicago as well and doing what they can to talk to those mayors, those county executives about regional coordination."

But the delegation says immediate financial resources are going to be challenging.

"We have a January deadline of passing part of the budget. Otherwise, the government shuts down. That is no way President Biden's fault," said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat.

Congressional Democrats blame far-right Republicans for holding up the budget, which includes aid for Ukraine.

"The Republicans right now would like to shut down the border. They'd like to send everybody back where they came from," said U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat.

"What is really dangerous is they are trying to trade terrible border policy, like changing the asylum definition, and we are not getting anything in return," added U.S. Rep Delia Ramirez, a Democrat.

Republicans are threatening a government shutdown unless Congress enacts strict changes to immigration law.

"If they can't love our country and the citizens enough and respect our laws, then we need to cut off funding. We need to shut the government down until they secure the border," said U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, a Republican.

"Now, you're saying we're going to tie those critical foreign policy objectives on a domestic issue that we've never gotten done. I mean, that's a blueprint for getting nothing done," Quigley said.

Despite the roadblocks, Congressional members say they will continue to push President Joe Biden for more help.

"We are in conversations with the administration and Secretary Mayorkas, figuring out a way to get Chicago money as soon as possible through this process," Ramirez said. "The challenge is it's tied up to border policy, Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and humanitarian aid, so the complexities, right, make it difficult for Chicago."

In an attempt to cut through the noise, Johnson, in recent weeks, made his case in several rounds of national interviews.

"We know that the president is working to find solutions, but we're going to continue to make the call to keep up the awareness, Lee said.

Lee said the city is "studying" New York City's legal action against rogue bus companies and declined to say whether Chicago might follow suit.

Also discussed at Friday's meeting was better regional coordination with outside municipalities and federal help to expedite work permits for migrants.