Chicago City Council approves $51 million in funding for migrant housing

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday to spend $51 million in funds from a 2021 budget surplus to pay for efforts to care for migrants from Central and South America who have been sent here from Texas, following a heated debate that was repeatedly interrupted by angry protesters.

The vote came a week after three councilmembers opposed to the measure temporarily blocked a final vote during Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first City Council meeting.

After hosting a meeting this week to retake that vote, councilors approved the funding plan 34-13, after opponents on the council rostrum repeatedly booed supporters who spoke during the public comment period at the start of the meeting and to the councilors who spoke during the formal debate, prompting Johnson to berate them repeatedly, asking that both sides respect each other’s positions and allow each other to speak without interruption.

A woman who said she was with the Black Lives Matter group, Women of Faith, said councilmembers should not spend millions to set up temporary shelters for new immigrants in Chicago before doing more to address the city’s existing homelessness problems. .

“We need to take care of our community. We need to take care of our black community. We need to open these schools for mental health,” she said. “We need to take care of our homeless. We need to open these mental health centers. We need to allocate some of this money for our black children, for the black community. We haven’t gotten anything for our community and they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Anooshka Gupta, a community organizer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, said Chicago has a duty to address the immediate needs of incoming refugees for housing, clothing and other support as they search for long-term housing.

“When newly arrived families sleep on the floors of police stations with nowhere to go, we know Chicago is not living up to its values. We’ve seen how this humanitarian crisis has exposed the gaps in our city when it comes to to services and resources. Gupta said, adding that councilmembers also need to do more to support Chicago’s existing struggles with affordable housing for all. “City Council has the opportunity to decide right now to reverse decades of disinvestment in Black and Latino communities. We shouldn’t be here fighting each other over resources. Everyone deserves a chance to thrive, not just survive. We can’t keep playing games with people’s lives, and I ask that this be the starting point and not the end”.

While shouting between supporters and opponents of the ordinance led Chicago police officers to remove several people from the crowd inside City Hall, the debate among council members was more measured, if often passionate.

“The soul of Chicago is somewhat on trial today with regard to this ordinance,” Ald said. David Moore (17), one of the 13 councilors who voted against the funding measure.

Moore said he doesn’t support spending $51 million to help new immigrants in Chicago when the city hasn’t done enough to support the existing homeless population.

The councilman said that about 15% of the population in his district is Latino and that “my heart hurts when I hear people talk about trying to make this a black and brown issue. Those politicians at the top make that mess “.

“I have a diverse population, and I hear those same people: black, white, Latino, all different races, saying ‘What about us?’ So people keep saying there’s enough to go around. I’ve heard it over and over again. I’ve heard it over and over again. So if there’s enough to go around, then let’s look at the ordinance where there’s enough,” he added.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49), whose neighborhood includes a temporary shelter for migrants at the lodge in Leone Beach Parkvoted in favor of the funding, saying the anger shown at Wednesday’s meeting was the result of decades of disinvestment in the city’s black neighborhoods.

“A conflict is being created in a soft spot in this city, and it’s frustrating because this soft spot wouldn’t exist if our city hadn’t gone decades without serving Black residents,” he said.

Hadden said he agrees the city needs to do more to support the black community, including reparations for the ancestors of enslaved blacks, but the city also needs to support immigrants who have been sent to Chicago, and He pointed out that they did not choose to come here. , but they were sent by Texas Governor Greg Abbott as part of his protest against the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

“I’m going to support this, because it’s the right thing to do right now,” he said. “Everyone who has been working hard for this needs to come forward to the black people of Chicago with the same energy.”

Urging their colleagues to support the $51 million to support asylum seekers, several Latino councilmembers expressed their support for finally passing some form of reparation for the descendants of enslaved African Americans in Chicago.

“We have an obligation to go back to pass a reparations ordinance, to make sure that ordinance is also representative of what our black brothers in the city of Chicago need. But we also know that the people who were sent here, not by choice, I need this support today,” freshman Ald said. Jessie Fuentes (26).

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25) said the City Council has a duty to address the inequities facing the African American and Latino communities, and it can afford to do both.

“We cannot allow children to starve, no matter where we are. We cannot allow people to seek shelter when we have the resources. Today we can make a decision as a community to start undoing these injustices by investing in every corner of the city of Chicago,” he said.

Both supporters and opponents said the city needs more help from the state and federal governments to help pay for the care provided to asylum seekers who came to Chicago from Texas.

“This should fall to our federal government. This should fall to our state,” Ald said. Anthony Napolitano (41), who voted against the ordinance.

Napolitano also noted that Chicago has been a so-called “sanctuary city” since 1985, when Mayor Harold Washington signed an executive order prohibiting city agencies from enforcing federal immigration laws, and that the City Council later expanded on that by passing a “Welcoming City”. ordinance in 2012, further protecting immigrants in Chicago.

“In frustration we all want to scream and point fingers at Texas, and the governor of Texas, I heard at one point trafficking all these people here. That’s not right. We declare ourselves a sanctuary city, therefore that governor He is going to send these people, these poor people who have nowhere to go, nowhere to eat, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to shower, to places that have been declared sanctuary,” Napolitano said. “That falls on us. We never prepared in ’85, we never prepared in 2011, we never prepared in 2021.”

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), who said his pupil was “ambushed” by plans to open a respite center for 400 immigrants at Wilbur Wright College in his neighborhoodhe voted against the funding plan and defended Abbott for sending immigrants to Chicago.

“Governor Abbott is doing these people a favor. Brownsville, Texas is a poor, dirty city the size of Aurora,” he said. “We can’t accommodate 8,000, and we think they can accommodate 100,000? It’s not going to happen. You’re doing them a favor. So now we have to step up and figure this out.”

The debate ended with an impassioned speech from a tearful Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20), whose neighborhood includes a migrant respite center at the former Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn, he said he knows “it’s right to want to help other people, because as blacks, that’s what we do, but when the hell are they going to help us? When?”

“Saying no doesn’t mean I want to hurt migrant families. Voting yes doesn’t mean I don’t care about Black Chicago, and don’t give me that if I vote yes, because I’m the same woman who left. on hunger strike when the schools closed, and half the people here didn’t say anything,” Taylor added. “My vote is yes, if that bothers you, so be it. If you take away my vote, so be it, but you have to look in the mirror.”

Repeatedly saying “hurt people don’t hurt people,” Taylor said she supports providing support to asylum seekers who were given no choice but to come to Chicago, but is tired of the black community being asked to to help shoulder the burden of the crisis. when their own needs have not been adequately attended to.

However, he said the black community must support migrants who have nowhere to go.

“As Black people who have been continually hurt by the city and country they love, it is not our responsibility to care for others. And we are tired, because we do that, ”she said. “When we fought for civil rights, when we fought for our seat at the table, when we fought just to drink from a fucking fountain, it was us. But hurt people don’t hurt other hurt people.”

More than 8,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Central and South America, have arrived in Chicago since late August 2022, when Abbott began sending immigrants to Chicago and other so-called “sanctuary cities.”

The $51 million approved by the City Council on Wednesday will only cover the costs of assistance for asylum seekers through June 30. It is unclear how Mayor Johnson and the City Council plan to pay for those costs in the long term.