Jul 12, 2023 - News

Chicago under pressure to move migrants out of police stations

Woman sits on floor, back of a toddler with pigtails, man in sweatpants lies on floor with face covered.

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

Pressure is building on Mayor Brandon Johnson to provide more housing for migrants as the city investigates allegations of "sexual misconduct" against police involving a migrant at the 10th District station in North Lawndale.

Why it matters: Community groups and activists say the allegations highlight the urgency for Johnson's administration to find permanent housing for the nearly 5,300 new arrivals staying in city shelters — 731 of whom are at police stations.

Driving the news: About 40 migrants were relocated from the station over the weekend as CPD's Bureau of Internal Affairs and Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigate.

  • In a statement, city officials tell Axios that they're working to move all migrants from police stations to different shelters, including Park District facilities and Chicago Public Schools, or to permanent housing.
  • Johnson also appointed last week the city's first deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights.

By the numbers: Chicago has received 11,000 new arrivals since last August, and the $51 million in migrant aid approved in late May was expected to last through June.

  • Johnson's deputy chief of staff Cristina Pacione-Zayas said at a June 28 committee meeting that $47 million went to staffing, and the city is opening requests for community providers to work with the city on resettling migrants.

Between the lines: Chicago has been receiving rental assistance funds from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and mutual aid groups.

  • IHDA says that assistance has cost about $8 million and came from COVID relief funds.
  • The city received $92 million from the state and about $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Pacione-Zayas.

Zoom in: In addition to police stations, the city has used The Inn of Chicago in Streeterville and YMCA West Ridge as shelters. Brands Park, Piotrowski Park, Gage Park and Leone Beach House are also housing migrants, according to a Park District spokesperson.

  • The city needs more spaces and staff capable of serving at least 250 migrants at a time, 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez tells Axios.
  • Vasquez, who chairs the City Council's Immigrant and Refugee Rights Committee, proposes using closed churches in his North Side ward as shelters, but it would require money to lease them from the archdiocese.

What they're saying: Vasquez tells Axios his committee's priority is making sure Chicago is a truly welcoming city.

  • "I think the city has been welcoming in spirit, but it hasn't, over decades since it was first thought of as a sanctuary city, really developed the infrastructure necessary to do so."

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