Ignoring Residents’ Complaints, Chicago Charges Forward With Migrant Tent Camp Plans

The city has been entangled in a heated debate over whether the city should remain a sanctuary to nearly 21,000 migrants and counting.

AP/Erin Hooley
Migrants camped outside of the 1st District police station at Chicago. AP/Erin Hooley

Chicago is moving ahead with plans to build a migrant tent camp, despite protests from hundreds of residents who say the city is prioritizing the surge of migrants over other disadvantaged communities. 

The temporary housing, set to be built on a lot that will cost the city nearly $100,000 a month to use, has sparked backlash for weeks, including a swarm of residents descending upon a special city council meeting last week to demand the city change its “sanctuary city” status. 

Despite the residents’ protest, though, the city is working toward building housing to shelter the nearly 21,000 migrants who have arrived since August 2022. Environmental inspections at the proposed building site are under way, Fox 32 reported, amid concerns over the site’s industrial and toxic past.

Chicago’s unfolding migrant crisis appears emblematic of a larger rift within the Democratic Party over how to handle immigration, as cities scramble to find housing before winter for the busloads of arriving migrants, of which Texas has promised to send more.

Ahead of the election, recent NBC polling shows Republicans lead by 18 percentage points on the immigration issue, raising questions about whether other sanctuary cities could see similar backlash in the future.

“We’re fighting for our safety, for our rights,” one Chicago resident said. “They took away everything, the mayor sold us out,” he said, adding that the city was “not doing anything” for his community. 

Many other residents have turned on Chicago’s mayor, Brandon Johnson, at outdoor protests and within City Council meetings, as protesters held signs of his face with writing over it saying, “I don’t care” and, “Johnson, did you hear us?” Other signs pleaded, “Save our home.”

Chicago’s crisis is also raising constitutional questions about the role of the federal government versus localities in enforcing immigration law. 

Sanctuary city ordinances uphold the Constitution, a DePaul University professor and director of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, Katy Arnold, said on CBS News Chicago Monday.

“Migration policing has been outside of the Constitution, it’s considered foreign policy, so a sanctuary city has upheld the 14th Amendment rights or protections that would prevent state or local officials from discriminating against migrants,” she said. “So it’s upholding the Constitution and realizing that ICE policing has been extra-constitutional.”

Yet, on other issues, including on Governor Abbott’s push to allow state police to deport migrants in Texas, immigration experts have said that immigration issues are the federal government’s purview, as the Sun has reported. 

Yet, as the sanctuary city battle unfolds at Chicago, some migrants have said their living situation in the overrun city has been so dismal that they are turning back to the countries they left behind.

Venezuelan-born Micahel Castejon, who couldn’t afford to pay rent at Chicago while he waited for his work permit, told the Chicago Tribune that he is returning to Venezuela. 

“The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “There’s nothing here for us.” 

Representatives for the city of Chicago did not respond to a request from the Sun to comment on Monday’s inspections and the future of the temporary housing program for migrants.

The New York Sun

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