Mayor lays out timeline to address crisis of migrants in Chicago, including use of 'base camps'

'This is our reality,' Johnson said of migrant crisis

Friday, September 8, 2023
Mayor lays out plan to address Chicago migrant crisis
With five buses of asylum seekers arriving over the last two days alone, Mayor Brandon Johnson is laying out his plan to address the migrant crisis.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With Chicago's growing conflict and concern about migrants sleeping on police station floors, Mayor Brandon Johnson shared a timeline to ease overcrowding at police stations, which includes the possibility of using giant tents.

One bus carrying migrants arrived in Chicago Thursday, and four arrived Wednesday.

The work of city government on the migrant crisis has lacked clarity for some.

On Thursday, Johnson spoke with ABC7 Chicago about his plan to get all new arrivals off the floors of police stations in the next month.

With five buses of asylum seekers arriving over the last two days alone, Mayor Brandon Johnson is laying out his plan to address the migrant crisis.

"We are moving with expediency because the weather is going to be shifting very soon, so before inclement weather sets in, we fully expect to have these base camps established," Johnson said.

He pointed to efforts to buy or repurpose multiple facilities before the end of the year to address the ongoing need to shelter new arrivals.

"We have had more buses show up in the last 15 weeks than all of last year combined; I don't think we should continue to look at this as a crisis. This is our reality," Johnson said.

The few city council members who said they're familiar with the plan explained further.

"We know that the mayor is now proposing and will enact tents, large tents, that will be able to house these individuals. That will have HVAC units. We need dignified spaces for migrants," said 22nd Ward Ald. Michael Rodriguez.

"I had heard from some members of the administration that they have been looking at military-grade tents and like setting up base camps as a way to have an alternative to having police station be where folks are currently living and sleeping," said 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez.

Ald. Vasquez said the idea is that these base camps, with food, cots, and health services, would become the first stop for incoming migrants rather than police stations. But city council members still don't know where the city might erect them.

"There are not that many places or parts of town that have this much space. And when you're thinking about the ones that do, it's South, it's West side, it's places that have been typically marginalized," Vasquez said.

The mayor responded to criticism about devoting resources to new arrivals, while an estimated 64,000 Chicagoans are without permanent housing.

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"I know what it's like to have a relative, a family member who is suffering," Johnson said.

Johnson shared his personal understanding of watching a loved one struggle with addiction and homelessness.

"When you don't have the right resources or the right interventions, the type of hardship and turmoil that causes on families, I know that pain," he said.

He is pushing for a real estate transfer tax devoting more resources to the unhoused and mental health services.

And he said he is pushing for sacrifices to be made by all levels of government.

"If we do not act in this moment, if we do not live out our values and our principles as a city, the type of chaos that will break out as a result of not having any action will cost the city much more," Johnson said.

As more arrivals are expected, the city is working on finding shelter away from police stations, and soon, before winter.

Sources told ABC7 Chicago the mayor plans to have a briefing with some aldermen Friday to further discuss his plan.