Chicago delegation warns migrants at Texas border of city's lack of shelter space, oncoming cold

How many migrants are in Chicago? 11K currently in shelters, 3,600 awaiting placement

ByChristian Piekos, Liz Nagy, and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Chicago delegation warns migrants at border of city's limitations
Why are migrants coming to Chicago? At least two flights of migrants are reportedly leaving San Antonio each day for the city.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (WLS) -- A Chicago delegation is in Texas, considering new ways to handle Chicago's migrant crisis even as they encourage asylum seekers to look for alternatives to Chicago to settle in.

The delegation of Chicago leaders is hoping this trip to the U.S.-Mexico border will provide more insight into how to deal with the growing migrant crisis at home.

Three Chicago aldermen and the city's deputy mayor managing the new arrivals in Chicago are visiting multiple cities across Texas, including El Paso, San Antonio, McAllen and Brownsville.

SEE ALSO: Delegation of Chicago leaders heading to southern border this week without Mayor Brandon Johnson

Tightly clutching their legal papers, some hobbling with broken bones from their border-crossing journey, migrants show up at a San Antonio shelter around the clock. Many of them are slowly making their way to Chicago, and many of them are also too nervous to show their faces on camera.

They've heard that what awaits them when they reach the Windy City is opportunity. Word has made its way through an ever-growing network of asylum seekers.

As they try to make arrangements in the still-hot San Antonio sun outside a shelter run by Catholic Charities, the group's president is trying to dispel the illusions about Chicago.

"When I spoke to the CEO of Chicago a few weeks ago, he asked me please not to refer people to Chicago and I said 'Absolutely.' We communicate with the people and say 'If you go to Chicago you're not going to have a place to stay, it's going to be hard for you, it's going to be cold.' But again, we cannot force people. People choose freely where they want to go," said Antonio Fernandez, president of Catholic Charities San Antonio.

The Chicago delegation is doubling down on that message as they make their way across border cities, and preparing migrants who do make the 1,500-mile trek for the hardships that await them here.

Their warnings are little more than white noise to optimistic asylum-seekers.

City leaders also said it is obvious that more help from the federal government is absolutely crucial.

"We've done everything we could, and now it's time for the federal government to declare Chicago a federal disaster zone, with that comes millions of dollars that will be used to house, used to provide wrap-around services and not for profits can step in and work beside the city," 6th Ward Alderman Will Hall said.

Right now, there are 11,000 migrants in city shelters and 3,600 others awaiting placement.

The city delegation will spend another day with federal and nonprofit leaders before heading to San Antonio, where at least two flights of migrants are reportedly departing for Chicago each day.