CHICAGO (CBS) – City of Chicago officials have not turned over documents detailing how they spent more than $100 million to care for newcomers. The Chicago Office of Budget & Management declined CBS 2’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for spending data. The city also ignored requests from the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) said she has also not yet received any requested financial information.
“Heads need to roll,” Taylor said.
A brown color, Adl. Ariel Reboyras (30th) testified, “One of the estimates I see is that we average about $7,000 a month for every migrant seeking asylum.”
CBS 2 has been trying to figure out what the city’s government spending should be to see which companies and organizations are paid and how much they get paid for various services. Does every newcomer really get $7,000 in care every month?
Women with children sell sweets in the streets of the center to survive.
So many asylum seekers have been forced to camp outside police stations. CBS 2 wanted to find out the truth about where all the money is going – at least $120 million in taxpayers’ money.
Migrants were brought to Chicago by buses in August 2022. Nearly 12,000 asylum seekers have made the journey. The city of Chicago has provided food, shelter, beds, medical care and more.
In February, CBS 2 filed a request for data under FOIA with the city’s Office of Budget & Management. FOIA requires the city to provide public records. After months of delays, the city denied the request, saying there were no records.
“You all know that some of that is dark business. That’s what that is. Someone’s lying,” Taylor said. “There are, they just hide them.”
This is not the first time the city has been accused of hiding the truth about its dealings with migrants. Last fall, the mayor’s office said Wadsworth Elementary, a shuttered school, remained empty. Chicago Public Schools said construction of CBS 2 being carried out on the vacant school was “routine maintenance.” Both offices sent statements saying there were,to turn the school into a migrant reception centre.
But CBS 2 obtained photos, e-mails and work orders – all of which showed that the building was being refurbished for “newcomers.”
This happened in the Ald. Taylor’s 20th Ward. She is frustrated with the city.
“I was told this was not going to be a shelter. I was told they weren’t bringing people in. Then I was told they were bringing in 200 people. And now it’s 583,” Taylor said.
CBS 2 didn’t give up and sent a FOIA request to the Chicago Department of Finance. An official there told CBS 2 to request data from other city departments. Only one responded with any kind of data.
“Just say you’re not going to give it to us,” Taylor said. “Be honest, ‘We’re not going to give it to you because we (expletive) have the money,’ say that.”
CBS 2 brought the fight to the Illinois Attorney General’s office. That’s what you do when a government agency denies your request for public records. They asked the city several times to turn over spending data. The city never responded. They ignored three separate letters from the state’s highest prosecutor’s office.
“This is downright illegal,” said Matt Topic, a government transparency attorney who has sued the city hundreds of times for failing to hand over public records. “The law states that a public body must respond to such a request for review.”
Topic said this about the city ignoring three requests from the Illinois Attorney General’s office: “It says the city thinks it’s above the law and the city doesn’t have much respect for the taxpayers who pay their salaries and pay for their service.” systems.”
Failure to track FOIA has been a systemic problem over the years. It was Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration that initially claimed they did not have the requested expenses from migrants. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration said the same thing. And it is the Johnson administration that the Illinois Attorney General’s office ignored.
“I would take them (expletive) to federal court,” Taylor said. “And get whoever fired who made that decision. Because someone said they weren’t allowed to share those documents and that’s (smooth).”
In February, CBS 2 filed a second FOIA request for data showing how much money the city has asked the federal government to cover these massive expenses. The city has not handed over those documents either.
CBS 2 has contacted the mayor’s office and has not heard back yet.