Mayor Johnson administration gives update on handling Chicago migrants, admits challenge

Sarah Schulte Image
Thursday, June 29, 2023
Johnson administration gives update on handling migrant crisis
The Mayor Johnson administration gave an update on how it's handling the Chicago migrants and admitted it's been a challenge.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Volunteers from a West Side church brought donations to migrant shelters in Pilsen Wednesday, as the effort to house and take care of asylum seekers continues.

The Mayor Brandon Johnson administration admits it's been a big challenge.

"It is one thing to say we are a welcoming city; it's a whole another thing to make investments in the infrastructure so we can actually operationalize it," Deputy Chief of Staff Cristina Pacione-Zayas said.

In an effort to be transparent, Pacione-Zayas gave Council members the first public update on exactly how the administration is handling the continued flow of migrants arriving in Chicago. Since last August, about 11,000 have come to the city.

"Just in the past 10 days, we've had 14 buses arrive," Pacione-Zayas said.

SEE ALSO: Chicago migrants: City could open as many as 5 migrant shelters, as Mayor Johnson addresses crisis

Pacione-Zayas said close to 5,000 individuals are in 12 shelters across the city, 650 are in police stations, 189 households have found permanent housing, another 440 have signed leases and thousands of others have moved on from Chicago. Pacione-Zayas said the city is working an all-hands-on-deck coordinated effort.

"This was imposed on my community. The thought we are now in a place of transparency and actually saying what should be happening makes me feel way better about situation," 20th Ward Ald. Jeanette Taylor said.

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington talks about the migrant crisis in Chicago.

Taylor said transparency also includes how the $51 million the Council approved for migrants is being spent. Pacione-Zayas said most of it is for a non-local staffing contract established during the Mayor Lori Lightfoot administration. The Johnson administration said the city plans to hire local people

"We are fully aware of the robust network of community-based organizations that we have here in the city of Chicago, and we know it will not be as costly. Plus, I'd like to see the dollars stay in Chicago," Taylor said.

Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights Chair Ald. Andre Vasquez said the city must have a good migrant plan in place before next summer's Democratic Convention.

"If you don't figure out how to address it, you're going to see folks on the street during the convention, and that is not going to be a good look for Democratic Party," Vasquez said.

Vasquez said more help is needed from the federal government. He said it would have been helpful for President Joe Biden to visit the shelters and police stations during his Chicago visit Wednesday.