Updated May 12, 2023 - News

Chicago braces for more migrant arrivals after end of Title 42

Photo of a migrant family spread out on the floor of a police station

Immigrants from Venezuela rest in the lobby of a police station where they've been staying with other migrant families since their arrival to the city on May 9. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency this week over the influx of migrants coming to Chicago.

Why it matters: The declaration frees up resources to provide shelter and aid as the number of people crossing the U.S. border from Mexico tops 10,000 a day after pandemic-era Title 42 restrictions expired.

Context: Migrants being processed at police stations are waiting longer to move to shelters due to a backlog of available spaces, Lightfoot says.

What they're saying: "We need long-term planning for where these shelters are going to be in the city and what buildings we can use to make this process a little less herky-jerky," Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) tells Axios.

  • "So many City Council members have already stepped up to say, 'Hey, here's a facility in my ward that I believe may be a suitable site.'"

Zoom in: This week, the feds gave the city and state $8.5 million in grants to help with the migrant crisis. But that's a far cry from the almost $191 million requested.

  • Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and Illinois House Democrats told the Federal Emergency Management Agency that they felt "profound disappointment" over the low grant amount after the city already spent $75 million to care for 8,000 migrants.

Be smart: So where will the money come from to cover resources like shelter, meals and health care?

  • "In order to access certain dollars, the city will have to enact some budget amendments," Rosa tells Axios.
  • "We need more resources to meet the current need, and we absolutely need to plan ahead to anticipate the resources that will be needed over the coming year."

The intrigue: Lightfoot is not just calling on the federal government for more money; she's also urging the Biden administration to expedite work permits for the migrants.

  • "If we could put people to work legally, it would lessen the strain on all of our resources," Lightfoot said at a press conference this week.
  • "It would lessen the burden if they're able to go out and work and take care of themselves and pay for housing."

What's next: With more migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled that he'll continue to bus them to cities including Chicago, New York and Washington — which started sending migrants to nearby suburbs to reduce the strain on city shelters.

  • In the meantime, Lightfoot says her team has been regularly briefing staffers for Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who, starting Monday, "is going to own responsibility for this."

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