(The Center Square) – As non-citizens continue to arrive in Chicago, many have been stuck at O’Hare Airport while awaiting housing. One mutual aid volunteer says even more soon will be without more shelter options.
Chicago has seen more than 15,000 migrants from the southern border arrive over the past 12 months. Many of the migrants have traveled from communities in Texas, where resources are stretched thin because of the continued influx of border crossers. In response, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said Friday the state has contributed $328 million overall to support asylum seekers to date.
Last month, Chicago signed a deal costing an additional $30 million for military-grade basecamp tents. ABC reported that an extra several hundred arrivals are currently being housed at O’Hare Airport. Last week, Pritzker announced an award of $41.5 million in assistance to communities working with migrant populations, including over $30 million to Chicago.
Jennifer Torres, a Chicago mutual aid worker who assists with housing, spoke during a city council meeting and urged the council members to provide additional housing assistance.
“We need additional support for asylum seekers who have surpassed their six months of support through the Asylum Seeker Emergency Assistance Program,” Torres said. “Many families have expended their six months of support, and landlords are threatening eviction.”
Torres said many non-citizens could soon end up back in police stations without additional support from the city.
“We need an add-on rent support program that keeps families resettled in their new homes until they can legally work and pay their own rent,” Torres said. “We can’t have families with no other choice but to return to police stations and wait again a month or more for shelter beds.”
In August, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara urged the city to stop the use of police stations as a means of shelter.
“This process needs to stop. All of these migrants need to be sent and housed somewhere else other than police stations. It is an overcrowded, safety, and not to mention biohazard issue for our membership,” Catanzara said. “Nobody seems to think this is a workplace concern, but we are going to keep exploring every avenue possible to force the city … to stop this practice.”
Some have been critical of Pritzker’s team.
“I get frustrated because I wonder how many of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senior staff are scouting locations on a daily basis to make sure that we’re living up to our responsibility as a sanctuary state,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others, including El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser, began transporting migrants to Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies that have resulted in a surge of illegal border crossings.