Apr 19, 2024 - News

Chicago City Council approves $70M more in migrant aid

Illustration of a checkmark that turns into a series of dollar signs.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Another $70 million for migrant aid got the green light in City Council Friday after a long, contentious debate.

Why it matters: The move marks a reversal for Mayor Brandon Johnson, who disavowed the new spending in February, and some alders are concerned that the funding will encourage more new arrivals to settle in the already overwhelmed city.

The big picture: The $70 million joins $150 million already earmarked for migrant programs in the 2024 budget. Johnson's office says it's needed to handle the potential surge of new arrivals ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

What they're saying: "If you cut the funding spigot, [migrants] won't come," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), who voted no Friday.

Even those who voted for the additional funds expressed frustration with multimillion-dollar migrant contracts the city has signed with companies like GardaWorld and Favorite Healthcare Staffing.

  • "We're paying Ritz-Carlton prices for Super 8 services," said Ald. Nicole Lee (11th), who voted yes.
  • "I'm going to vote for this today, but I want to see accountability and transparency across the board," said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

Between the lines: The vote came amid continued council infighting and rising tensions between some Black and Latino alders and community members.

  • Further friction between longtime Latino residents and new arrivals also emerged this month at D.C. rallies led by Illinois legislators, urging the Biden administration to grant "longtime contributors" the same benefits given to many new arrivals.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), who voted for the funding, said infighting just helps those who want to "divide us" and create chaos before the DNC.

  • "Do you want to see 11,000 people inside of shelters or outside of buildings?" he asked. "[Migrants] do not disappear because the money doesn't show up."
  • "If we don't invest now then the type of chaos that the governor of Texas and former President Trump want happens," Johnson said Friday. "Then they win."

Ald. Desmon Yancy, whose 5th Ward has the highest eviction rate in the city, voted yes but said, "Black people in this city have [again] been put in a position to vote against our interests with a lose-lose proposition that asks us to be noble and sacrifice for others or wait on help that may never come."

By the numbers: The city has spent $295 million on the migrant mission since August 2022. That includes $72 million from the general operating fund and another $223 from state and federal grants.

  • The Cook County Board voted on Thursday to give the city another $70 million for migrant food and housing.
  • The Council also approved $48 million in state and federal grants to pay outstanding debts for staffing and shelter costs.

What's ahead: By the end of April, the city expects to reduce its shelters from 27 last winter to 16.


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