Gov. Pritzker, Mayor Johnson call on President Biden for more resources to help Chicago migrants

Galewood residents rage over plans to transform Amundsen Park Field House into Chicago's next migrant shelter

Wednesday, October 4, 2023
West Side residents frustrated over migrant shelter plans
EMBED <>More Videos

Galewood residents raged over plans to transform Amundsen Park Field House into Chicago's next migrant shelter.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ten more buses carrying migrants are expected to arrive in Chicago on Tuesday.

There are now over 2,300 migrants at Chicago police stations and more than 17,000 total in the city. In a letter to President Joe Biden asking for more help, Gov. JB Pritzker said the crisis is overwhelming the state and the city's ability to provide aid.

"We wanted to make sure there was a public statement out there of many of the things we had talked about in the past with the administration, but the things we need right now," Pritzker said.

Besides more money, Pritzker is asking for the president to use his executive power to waive fees for work authorization and accelerate the process. He and Mayor Brandon Johnson said they have had multiple conversations with the White House about the need for the federal government to manage the buses coming from Texas.

"What we are calling for, and what we have said, repeatedly, is we need to have better coordination with every single level of government, and that includes the state of Texas," Johnson said.

After follow-up conversations with the White House, Pritzker said the Biden administration is responsive and working on what can be done immediately. Some Chicago City Council members said the governor and mayor must continue to push.

"Double the number of Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Chicago. The difference is that those Ukrainian refugees have federal dollars to follow them. We are not seeing that with Venezuelan refugees," said 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa.

Last week, the alderman, who is Johnson's city council floor leader, blasted Pritzker for not doing enough to help on the state level. Others have continued to call for the governor to do more to find shelter outside Chicago.

"What the state and governor can do that would be helpful us coordinating all the other municipalities in the state of Illinois to take on more capacity," said City Council Committee on Immigration and Refugee Rights Chairman Alderman Andre Vasquez.

As officials prepare to open the doors to the 24th active shelter at a vacant Pilsen warehouse, inside a sweltering West Side auditorium, Galewood residents raged over plans to transform the Amundsen Park Field House into Chicago's next migrant shelter.

The neighborhood's representative in the city council, Alderman Chris Taliafero, broke with Johnson over his proposal to build migrant base camps.

"We are going to have a shelter at this particular location," Taliafero said.

A migrant shelter in Amundsen Park, they said, is a non-starter.

"I ask you to join me and stand up against all of this," Taliafero said.

This is a place people say is well-used by the community. Beloved youth football and senior programs would be suspended by the shelter's plans.

"We are not anti-migrant, but this is so disrespectful. This is crap," one person said.

Speaking at a community meeting Monday night was Beatriz Ponce de Leon, the city's deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights.

"As of today, 315 buses that have arrived since august 2022, plus seven today," Ponce de Leon said. "Forty-two buses in the last week, more than 17,000 new arrivals."

The city can't find the space or open shelters fast enough. Nearly every neighborhood has been asked to step up.