The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

‘Please support us as human beings’: Chicago’s escalating migrant crisis prompts short-term remedies

Charles Rex Arbogast via AP
Hot dogs are served to migrants, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, outside a Northside police station where they live in a small tent community in Chicago.

Jose Bayona, a migrant from Venezuela, was only in Chicago for only a few days since speaking with him Oct. 13, and was spending time outside a police station in Wrigleyville waiting to be taken to a shelter. In the meantime, he slept outside, either in a tent or on an air mattress received in donation.  

Bayona left Venezuela due to a failing economic system that left many citizens without basic necessities. 

“It’s not the fault of society but of politics,” Bayona said in Spanish.

An influx of migrants have been coming to Chicago and other northern cities for over a year, bused from states like Texas — and arrivals keep coming. The strain of city resources leaves incoming migrants no choice but to sleep in and outside police stations, at airports and halfway houses.

As a sanctuary city, Chicago refrains from inquiring about immigration status, revealing that information to authorities, or denying city service’s based on immigration status. 

Now, the city is scrambling for solutions to clear out police stations and get migrants off the streets for the upcoming winter months, which seems to be coming sooner than expected, as it snowed in Chicago on Halloween. 

At a Sept. 14 news conference, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson addressed the growing number of migrants and how he plans to grant them sanctuary. 

“I have outlined a strategic plan that sets our priorities for this next phase of our new response,” Johnson said at the news conference. “And so, one, we must, and we will replace police stations with base camps before inclement weather.” 

Bayona is not the only one who is anxiously waiting for a bus to pick him up and be transferred to a shelter.  

Many migrants have to stay at police stations as they await placement in shelters. This waiting game can continue for a few days to over a week, often leading to an overcrowding issue.

The city’s current plan ahead of winter is to house migrants in base camps, a community consisting of tents with cafeterias, cots, heating and central air.  However, health and safety are of concern. 

While Bayona has not experienced any instances of xenophobia since arriving in Chicago, some migrants have been victims of crime. Earlier this month, an assailant shot two migrants outside the Grand Crossing Police Station

Organizations citywide have stepped up to improve the lives of migrants, whether they have been here for a few days or years.

Alianza Americas is an all-encompassing network that brings together migrant-led organizations that aim to improve the quality of life of communities in the U.S. or migrants’ countries of origin. 

Part of their goal is to address misinformation about migrant communities, said Oscar A. Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas.

“The toxic narrative did not come out of thin air … It is the result of a very well-thought-out plan that seeks division and chaos in our society, using immigrants as a scapegoat,” Chacón said.

DePaul’s Division of Mission and Ministry released a call to action Oct. 6, showing the university’s solidarity with migrants.

“We cannot be indifferent in the face of growing need,” said the Rev. Memo Campuzano, the vice president for Mission and Ministry, in the statement. “Migrants and those socially dislocated and impacted by political, social, environmental and other crises belong at the center of our attention.”  

Another organization, the DePaul Migration Collaborative, unites staff, faculty, alumni and students to help immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.

“I would encourage students to listen to the stories of many of the new migrants — why they came and why many of them have traveled for thousands of miles to leave their home country,” said Maria Ferrera, who serves on the advisory council of DMC.

Bayona, the Venezuelan migrant, agreed.

“Extend a helping hand to those who need it,” he said. “We are a part of society, and if you treat us as humans to humans, that human has potential that can be utilized here in this country and can be a useful person. … Please support us as human beings.”

 Editor’s note: Alyssa N. Salcedo contributed to this report.

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