Nov 3, 2023 - News

Chicago mayor pressures feds for more money for migrants

Yessica Karolina Badell Palmar, right, a migrant from Venezuela, in her tent outside the Chicago police 1st District station on South State Street. Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

While Texas border towns are mostly processing and dispatching migrants to other states, Chicago is receiving and resettling new arrivals — a much more expensive task.

Why it matters: Mayor Brandon Johnson says the city doesn't have the funds to continue doing so.

Driving the news: Johnson traveled to Washington, D.C., this week with fellow sanctuary city mayors from New York and Denver to press for more help.

The big picture: Chicago is part of a coalition of border and interior cities seeking $5 billion in federal aid for migrants.

  • But as Johnson's deputy chief of staff Cristina Pacione-Zayas said last week, there's still a "huge discrepancy" between that request and what federal officials are offering.

State of play: Johnson has put aside $150 million for migrant care in his 2024 budget proposal, roughly half of what the city figures to need.

  • He'll look to state and federal sources for the rest, but state officials have slammed the door on further allocations this year.

What they're saying: "We have borne the brunt of the responsibility here," Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday. "That's not an equitable distribution of how government should cooperate."

  • Johnson noted the "full force" of federal resources given to Texas processing cities that are spending federal money to "send people to Chicago."
  • The city's smooth integration of 30,000 Ukrainians over the last year, Johnson said, was due to similarly robust federal support that he'd like to see conferred on the Latino migrants "sleeping on police station floors."

Between the lines: Last week Pacione-Zayas laid out five requests to the federal government. They include:

  • Organizing national resettlement coordination with "receiving cities/states" under "a single federal leader."
  • Donating federal land and buildings — including military bases — for migrant shelters.
  • Allowing flexible use of federal migrant funding, which currently runs out after 45 days.
  • Helping with expediting protection status and work permits.
  • Expanding protection status and work permits to "all non-citizens," including longtime Mexican immigrants.

The other side: The Department of Homeland Security press office did not directly respond to questions about these requests.

  • DHS told Axios in a statement that it's identifying ways "to maximize our support for local communities hosting recently arrived migrants, while enforcing the law and returning or removing those without a legal basis to remain in the country."

What we're watching: The City Council nearly voted Thursday to create a spring ballot referendum that would ask voters whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city.


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