Chicago volunteers step up to help migrants with Title 42 border policy set to expire Thursday

ByJessica D'Onofrio and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Friday, May 12, 2023
Volunteers step up to help migrants with Title 42 policy expiring
From haircuts to check-ups to construction, volunteers around Chicago have stepped up to help provide housing and services to arriving migrants.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- People in Chicago are stepping up to help as thousands of migrants make their way to the city.

The United States is preparing to take in many more migrants starting Thursday as Title 42 expires late Thursday night.

The pandemic-era policy allowed the U.S. to turn away migrants, citing concerns over COVID.

Chicago is already struggling to house migrants bused here from Texas, and officials expect to see more arriving after Title 42 expires.

The U.S. is putting new restrictions into place at its southern border to try to to stop migrants from crossing illegally and encourage them instead to apply for asylum online thro

But the question remains as to how many more will come, when, and how long they will seek refuge in the city.

Pilsen building owner steps up when CPD station runs out of room for migrants in Chicago

Volunteer coordinator Veronica Saldana with the Pilsen Food Pantry delivered diapers and other essential items Thursday morning to a shelter in Pilsen housing close to 70 migrants.

"There's just a continuous flow of people coming in wanting to help," Saldana said. "Mainly right now they're in need of air mattresses, blankets."

READ MORE: South Shore residents sue city over migrant respite center plans

Dulce Garduno is volunteering at the Pilsen shelter. The building was donated by a local business owner after the 12th District Police Station had to turn some asylum seekers away.

Garduno has been translating for many migrants here and lending an ear.

"I'm coming here to talk with them to listen to them but not just listen to their stories, you know you are here, you are welcome," Garduno said.

Contractor Pawel Miesiarczyk and his team custom built showers for the migrants in just 24 hours. He said he put all his other projects on hold.

Mayor Lightfoot issues emergency declaration in response to surge of Chicago migrants

"Right now, we're going to have four showers. It's ready for an additional one if there are more people coming," he said. "It's a great feeling. It makes you feel good to be a Chicgaoan."

In other parts of the warehouse, Mark Nava worked out of his makeshift barbershop, giving free haircuts to some of the youngest migrants while University of Illinois family medicine Dr. Evelyn Figueroa took a break from a busy clinic day to swing by the shelter to offer checkups.

"We do need to do a lot of preventive medicine, so stuff related to vaccinations that we need to get done, screening people for TB," she said. "Chicago is a city built on the shoulders of immigrants and with the labor of immigrants. We want to see people succeed."

Twenty-fifth Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez has been coordinating this community effort in Pilsen, as the pandemic-era Title 42 immigration restrictions are set to expire late Thursday night, which means the number of migrants is expected to surge.

"We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead," United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said.

Mayor Lightfoot has already declared a state of emergency with city-run shelters full and resources scarce as hundreds of migrants keep arriving in Chicago by the day.

Plus, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday meeting with top White House officials along with Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. He's calling for federal help.

Many City Council members say the federal government, the state and corporations need to step up. They say there is just not enough money to address the crisis.

In Pilsen, volunteers are bracing for the possible influx of asylum-seekers.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez says they now have 50 volunteers at the Pilsen shelter.