Home Local What to know about Chicago’s migrant crisis

What to know about Chicago’s migrant crisis

by staff

More than 10,000 asylum-seekers, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in Chicago since August, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, began putting recent refugees from Central and South America onto one-way buses to Chicago and other democratic cities, arguing that liberal “sanctuary cities” should readily take on more of the burden from the border crisis.

The migrants have arrived on buses, planes and other means of transportation with help from not-for-profit organizations at the border and on their own from different states, after hearing from fellow asylum-seekers that in Chicago there’s shelter and food available.


But city and state resources have not been able to keep up, most recently forcing migrants to sleep in police stations and galvanizing residents and faith-based groups to create makeshift shelters and even house the migrants themselves. Twelve temporary city-run shelters have opened throughout the city, including one at Wilbur Wright College and another one in Richard J. Daley College, an attempt to move migrants out of police stations but still without a clear plan of a more permanent future.

Meanwhile, migrant children living in temporary shelters enrolled in Chicago Public Schools, giving families a semblance of normalcy in an otherwise intense state of transition. Volunteers are responding to needs by providing pop-up showers, clothing donations, hot meals, medical screenings and other temporary services. Communities are slowly getting used to the hundreds of new arrivals sleeping in abandoned schools, recreation centers and hotels in their neighborhoods.


Then-Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a state of emergency in early May in response to the thousands of migrants who have settled in the city, often under harsh living conditions.

The executive order marked the outgoing administration’s grimmest prognosis yet on how Chicago’s most vulnerable new arrivals will fare as the city braces for the imminent end of its runway on financial assistance. It came nine months after Abbott began putting recent refugees from Central and South America onto buses, which Lightfoot derided as a “political stunt” while also conceding the buses will not stop.

More than 10,000 such migrants have since come to the city, and Mayor Brandon Johnson has called the situation “wicked” and “unconscionable.” He has promised to help the city come together to provide for those who wish to “find real comfort here.”

Chicago is seeing its next big wave of new arrivals, however, despite the safety net that awaits them growing more frayed by the week. Families, including children and pregnant women, are still sleeping on the floor of crowded police stations, while more than a hundred daily new arrivals add to the need at untenable rates. Read more here.

Without any governmental help, a small house of worship on Division Avenue, Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church, has turned into a temporary shelter that has housed nearly 100 migrants. Many have transitioned into more permanent housing and found jobs, establishing a network within the group to lend each other a hand in their new home, Chicago.

At the church, the migrants share their journeys, fears and dreams. As some move out, others make room for new arrivals by cleaning up the sleeping areas in between church pews. And during Sunday service, everyone — those who have transitioned out and those who recently arrived — is invited to have lunch together.

Beyond the new reality that migrants face and the story of their desperate need to flee their home countries to undergo a journey north where many are now homeless, are people who once had homes, and jobs. Read more here.


The volunteers, parents who work full-time jobs, artists and even doctors, can be found at city- and community-run shelters and police stations, filling the gaps left by the city and state as government officials grapple with the lack of funding, resources and shelter space for the more than 10,000 asylum-seekers who have arrived since August.

For the migrants, people such as Ricky Flores, a roofer by trade, are more than just volunteers: They’re friends. Read more here.

The restrictions on asylum that have allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants are often referred to as Title 42, because the authority comes from Title 42 of a 1944 public health law that allows curbs on migration in the name of protecting public health.

Afternoon Briefing


Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.

The end of Title 42′s use has raised questions about what will happen with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration is preparing for an increase in migrants. Read more here.


Catch up on the latest news.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment