City leaders call for city council meeting to address Chicago migrant crisis, emergency federal aid

City officials testified at a city council committee meeting Wednesday

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Aldermen call for federal aid, special meeting on migrant crisis
City officials testified at a city council committee Wednesday, admitting it is challenging to find shelter for the influx of new arrivals.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Chicago alderpersons have called for a special meeting with all city departments to address how Chicago will keep up with the ongoing migrant crisis.

There are currently 14 shelters across the city being used to house migrants. A Rogers Park Super 8 Motel, previously used for homeless men, is the latest facility sheltering new arrival families.

"The number of buses we have received since May makes it really challenging to have a finite population because the ball keeps moving everyday," said Brandie Knazze, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services.

City officials testified at a city council committee Wednesday, admitting it is challenging to find shelter for the influx of new arrivals.

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About 12,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022, many of them arriving since this January.

"Just from January to today, we have seen an increase of 43.5%," said Beatriz Ponce de Leon, Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant & Refugee Rights.

The city said 68 buses of about 50 people per bus have arrived since January. Out of those buses, 60 of them have arrived since May, when Mayor Brandon Johnson took office.

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Migrants are taken to police stations first with the goal of getting them to a shelter as soon as possible. However, some alderpersons said the overall plan is not working.

"We are not prepared to take any more buses," 20th Ward Ald. Jeanette Taylor said. What is the plan to say 'we can't do this anymore?'"

Taylor said there have been several issues at the shelter in her ward. Over 600 migrants are staying at the old Wadsworth Elementary School.

There have been complaints about the lack of security at the Inn of Chicago in Streeterville, where 1400 migrants are living. 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly said while most are obeying shelter rules and city laws, some are not. He said residents reported problems Tuesday night.

"There were about 60 kids, guns in their waistbands, consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana on the public right away, unchecked, and this is not a one time occurrence," Reilly said.

Reilly and Taylor are calling for a special city council meeting with all departments present to discuss the plan for migrants. The city said there is definitely room for improvement.

"We haven't done enough bridge building between the local residents and the people staying at our shelters, and I think this is a very significant next step," Ponce de Leon said.

Alderpersons are also calling on Chicago's congressional delegation to step up and push the Biden administration to declare the migrant crisis a federal disaster in order to receive more funding.