May 31, 2023 - News

Chicago City Council approves migrant aid after fiery debate

Photo of a family on the floor of a police station

Immigrants from Venezuela rest in the lobby of a police station in May. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

After postponing a vote on $51 million in migrant aid last week, the Chicago City Council finally approved the funding on Wednesday.

Why it matters: With migrants sleeping on the floor of police stations, the city is out of space and resources to address their needs.

  • But Wednesday's contentious meeting also resurfaced fault lines between council members of color and reopened old wounds about disinvestment in the Black community.

State of play: The 13 council members who voted against the funding, which is expected to last only through June, included unlikely bedfellows. Six veteran Black alders joined conservative white council members in their opposition.

  • Every new alderperson voted for the measure.

What they're saying: Some blamed Texas, the federal government and state Legislature, while others pointed the finger at former Mayor Lori Lightfoot for not preparing for the current situation.

  • Conservative alders including Nick Sposato (38th) objected to prioritizing new arrivals over longtime Chicagoans in need.

The intrigue: Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) made a rousing speech about how City Council members have historically underfunded the Black community, though she ultimately voted yes.

  • "When it's a crisis for everyone else, we gotta do something. But when there is violence in the Black community, nothing gets said or nothing gets done," Taylor said. "But that doesn't mean we have to hurt or disrespect or be rude to anybody else."

What's more: Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th) tried to build bridges between the Black and brown alders. "When we vote for $51 million, I expect the same City Council to create alternatives to a carceral system that disproportionately incarcerates Black people."

What's next: Even with this new round of funding, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) said the city will still need much more money from state and federal sources.

  • "If Texas wants to send their people here. We should get some of the Texas funding coming up here as well."
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