HomeTop StoriesChicago City Council approves an additional $70 million in migrant funding

Chicago City Council approves an additional $70 million in migrant funding

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago will dedicate itself An additional $70 million for its efforts to house, feed and provide other services to thousands of asylum seekersafter the City Council on Friday approved Mayor Brandon Johnson’s request for more money for the city’s migrant crisis.

The 30-18 vote came after more than an hour of sometimes heated debate.

The council also unanimously approved $48 million in state and federal grant money, much of which will be used to pay the city’s outstanding debt for staffing and shelter costs.

Chairman of the Budget Committee Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said that despite the political divisions that have exacerbated the migrant crisis within the council, his colleagues must come together to meet the needs of newly arrived asylum seekers in Chicago.

“Yes, this is a challenge. Is this how we want to spend this money? Of course not, but again, we have an obligation and we have a responsibility to move this ball forward,” Ervin said.

The city had already budgeted $150 million this year to care for asylum seekers as part of the mayor’s 2024 budget plan, but Johnson has acknowledged that won’t be enough for the entire year. The mayor hoped to pressure the federal government to provide more money for the city’s migrant crisis, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

In February, Johnson declined to commit to another $70 million for migrants when Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle pledged to seek a combined $250 million in state and county funding to help the city with its migrant costs.

But the mayor changed course earlier this month, informing councilors of a plan to use funding from previous city surpluses to pay for the additional $70 million for migrant services.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) noted that many aldermen have criticized the city and state for not doing more to help the city fund its migrant mission, and thanked Pritzker and Preckwinkle for their commitment to help Chicago with $250 million for the migrant crisis.

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The city’s efforts to provide housing and other services to thousands of migrants over the past two years have become a particularly contentious issue for the City Council, with many councilors criticizing how much the city is spending while still grappling with other long-standing issues, such as crime, homelessness and a lack of economic development in many Black and Latino neighborhoods.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) suggested that much of the opposition to additional funding for migrants was based on “bigotry and ignorance,” which prompted Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) says: “That kind of rhetoric has to stop.”

“I really expect the nonsense to stop. I think everyone in this room has had enough. I’ve had enough of the name-calling. I’ve had enough of the attacks on our colleagues,” Waguespack said.

Ald. James Gardiner (45th) said he is concerned the Johnson administration will request another $60 million to $80 million in funding for migrants in July.

‘Do you know what we’re going to do? We blame the coming of the DNC, or we blame that bad man in Texas, Governor Abbott, and we will try to shine the light away from the reckless spending that we now agree on,” he said.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), one of the most vocal critics of the Johnson administration’s handling of the migrant crisis, says the city cannot afford to spend millions on caring for migrants, especially as there are only a handful other cities in Illinois are beyond that. of Chicago have agreed to provide shelter for migrants brought here from Texas.

“The rest of the state said thank you but no thanks, but here in the city of Chicago we say, ‘Come to Chicago. We have health care for you. We have child care for you. We have all kinds of housing. We have education for you. We have housing vouchers for you.” That’s why everyone comes to Chicago, but if you turn off the funding tap, they don’t come,” Beale said.

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Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), chairman of the council’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Committee, rejected Beale’s suggestion that cutting off funding for migrants in Chicago would stem the flow of migrants into Chicago, arguing that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is sending migrants to Chicago in an effort to sow division ahead of the Democratic National Convention in August.

“You’re kidding yourself if you think this will slow down the buses. Whether you call it a sanctuary city or not, you are kidding yourself if you think this will slow down the buses. the city, and to break it, and to make us fight among ourselves, and right now everything is going according to plan,” he said.

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) criticized opponents of the spending plan, like Beale, who said the city should not spend so much money caring for newly arrived migrants who “don’t pay taxes.”

“When you talk about our immigrants not paying taxes, it’s really frustrating. The fact is that it is very difficult to pay taxes in the city if the federal government does not allow you to work,” La Spata said.

Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26th) was among the councilors who warned of the potential consequences of rejecting additional funding for the migrant crisis.

“We have 3,200 children in our shelter system. Where will they go if we can no longer operate our shelters?” she said. “They didn’t charter those buses and ask them to come to Chicago, but they are here in our care.”

In seeking additional funding, the Johnson administration has warned that without it, the city could again see migrants sleeping on the floors of police stations, in field houses in the Chicago Park District or on city streets. The mayor’s aides have also warned that denying the funding could strain the city’s relationships with the county, state and federal officials they have asked to help with the crisis.

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Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) said she shares concerns that the city needs to better manage the money it has spent on the migrant crisis, especially when it comes to conditions in shelters.

“The reality is, I’m a call-it-all kind of guy. Look, we pay Ritz Carlton rates for Super 8 services. I wouldn’t want to be a migrant living in the shelter on Halsted,” she said. , referring to a shelter in Pilsen where an outbreak of measles and cases of tuberculosis have occurred.

However, Lee said the $70 million would help the city coordinate with county and state officials to achieve better care for migrants.

The mayor’s staff has told councilors that the combined $321 million in additional city, county and state funding for migrant services should cover the city’s expected costs this year, and they do not plan to spend any more money this year for the migrant crisis.

The Cook County Board unanimously approved Thursday to spend up to $70 million to reimburse the city for providing food to migrants, but the approval did not come without debate. Earlier this week, Cook County leaders wanted to make sure the money was going to its intended purpose. The county’s chief financial officer assured the board that the county will require invoices and other documentation before reimbursing the city for costs.

The Illinois General Assembly must still vote on Pritzker’s budget plan for the next fiscal year, including the additional $181 million in state funding he is seeking for Chicago’s migrant crisis.

More than 39,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022. As of Friday morning, a total of 8,971 migrants remained in 18 city-run shelters, while another 21 newly arrived asylum seekers were awaiting placement in a shelter.

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