Tensions Rise in Galewood, Chicago over Migrant Shelter Plans
FAIR Take | October 2023
In a contentious meeting held last Tuesday in the Chicago neighborhood of Galewood, residents expressed their concerns and frustration over the new plan to re-purpose the fieldhouse at Amundsen Park as a migrant shelter. The meeting, packed to capacity with overflow outside, was marked by heated exchanges as residents voiced their objections.
The proposal came as a surprise to many residents, including local Alderman Chris Taliaferro, who said he only learned of it four days earlier. Mr. Taliaferro said the Mayor’s office told him this was happening, whether he and his constituents liked it or not. “I told them right away that I objected to it, because there had been no community engagement,” Taliaferro said, “and the response given to me was, ‘You’re getting it.’” With every discussion Taliaferro had with the Mayor’s office afterwards, the amount of migrants rose. Initially, he was told there would be 125 migrants, but as time passed, that number increased to a staggering 276.
Galewood residents told officials they are upset because they are the ones paying taxes, yet the City is prioritizing the use of resources for migrants. Until now, many locals used the fieldhouse for sporting events and programs for seniors. They even made repairs to the facility themselves and bought appliances for the building when the city appeared to ignore their requests for resources. The requests went unheeded until the migrants’ arrival and the City began improvements on the property, leading to concerns that the city is putting the welfare of migrants above its residents. Charlotte Johnson, a resident of the Galewood community for 37 years, asked, “Now they’re fixing it all up to beautify it, for what? How come we didn’t have that service?”
Another concern Galewood residents expressed is the potential impact the migrant shelter will have on their property values. They also said they were worried about potential unrest or disruptions that could arise from displaced youth and crime, such as the shooting in Millennium Park earlier in the year. With migrants expected to move into the fieldhouse as soon as this weekend, the community is on edge, unsure of what the future may hold.
This outrage is not limited to the community of Galewood. Residents of Pilsen, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago, also gathered last week to protest a migrant shelter that opened without notice or input from the locals. Esmerelda Cargoca noted that the free government benefits, such as shelter, and healthcare, further incentivize migrants to not look for steady jobs.
As of this week, Chicago has seen 23 more buses arrive in the city, adding to the growing number of migrants. Currently, there are 9,872 aliens in shelters and 3,167 migrants awaiting placement. At least 764 of those seeking placement are living in O’Hare International Airport’s shuttle center. More than 17,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since last year, further straining the city’s resources. Since August of last year, Chicago taxpayers have spent between $319 and $362 million on the migrant crisis. This egregious amount of money is unsustainable, and the people of the Windy City have seemingly reached their breaking point.
Chicago residents have seen their community buildings taken over, their streets crowded by tents, and their airports packed with migrants awaiting room in official shelters. Many residents feel unheard from Mayor Johnson, and say they are going to the polls to enact change. “Vote them out. We’re going to vote them out of office,” said Galewood resident Mona Collins.
This week, Illinois Governor Pritzker sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to dedicate more taxpayer dollars to address Chicago’s migrant crisis. “[A]s the numbers being transported to Chicago are accelerating, the humanitarian crisis is overwhelming our ability to provide aid to the refugee population.’ Describing the situation as “untenable,” he expressed frustration that the City’s welcome to the migrants has not been matched with support by the federal government.
Governor Pritzker also urged President Biden to appoint one person to coordinate the federal government’s efforts at the border and to serve as a liaison for the states. He also demanded that the federal government take over the interior coordination of routing buses of newly arrived migrants across the country and oversee communication between states, so they are aware of who is arriving and when. “The federal government, he said, “must stop abdicating responsibility once [Customs and Border Protection] releases migrants into the interior of the country.”
While Governor Pritzker has urged the federal government to change how it manages the migrant crisis, he has not called on the Biden Administration to end its open-border policies that have caused it. Nor has Mr. Pritzker suggested that sanctuary policies of Chicago or his state – which attract illegal migrants to settle there – should be reversed. Instead, he complained in his letter that border governors and cities were busing migrants to cities like Chicago to score “political points,” when even the New York Times has acknowledged that the buses arriving from Texas make up only a fraction of the total number of arriving migrants.