Reports Say Chicago Mayor Is Now Requesting $70 Million To Help With Migrant Crisis

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 09, 2024

An NBC Chicago report citing anonymous sources has revealed that Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson will now likely reverse course on a previous decision not to take $70 million in aid. This aid was initially offered two months before and will be spent on the growing migrant crisis in the city.

This move comes as the city has begun removing migrants from shelters who have overstayed a 60-day limit in response to growing costs and an elevated number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.

February Deal

In February, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Chicago City Hall to have a meeting with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Johnson. The meeting’s intent was to figure out how much money is needed to pay for the concerns of migrants in 2024.

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The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker.

Source: United States Department of Defense/Wikimedia

At this time Pritzker had requested the Illinois General Assembly to approve $182 million in funding for migrants in the state, with Preckwinkle and Johnson getting $70 million each for the places they administer.

Johnson Unsure On the Deal

Just a week after the deal was offered, Johnson took steps to distance himself from its discussion. When asked by reporters about the deal on February 15, he reportedly told them “I’m not aware.” 

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A sweeping aerial view of downtown Chicago captured at dusk. The city's dense cluster of skyscrapers stands tall, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun

Source: Pedro Lastra/Unsplash

He maintained this distance on his intentions for the deal, even as he was repeatedly asked by reporters.

Deal Is Back On

According to sources who spoke with NBC Chicago, the city’s aldermen will be briefed in the coming days about Mayor Johnson’s new intent to spend $70 million on dealing with the consequences of the migrant crisis.

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A view of bridges connecting parts of Chicago.

Source: Clay Banks/Unsplash

Reportedly, this money will be siphoned away from federal funds set aside for COVID reasons.

Lack of Oversight

The city of Chicago has already spent nearly 30% of a federal $1.9 billion share of federal COVID relief funds meant to supplement its budget.

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The loop of Chicago, one of the places designated as a migrant landing zone.

Source: Ken Lund/Wikimedia

Alderman Bill Conway from Chicago’s 34th Ward tried to introduce more oversight into how the funds are being spent but said “that proposal was derailed to the Rules Committee.” Conway is also worried about how the $70 million proposal will be spent.

Demand For an Audit

30th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas has said that he wants the city to undergo a complete audit on the way the city has been spending federal funds to deal with the migrant crisis. 

A man writing with a pen.

Source: Scott Graham/Unsplash

Villegas has also said that he is skeptical of using resources meant for COVID relief to help alleviate the migrant crisis, as that was not the original intent behind them.

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Migrant Crisis

The city of Chicago is one of the many in the country that are enduring strain as a result of a marked increase of migrants entering the country that many are dubbing a “migrant crisis.”

Joe Biden walking alongside the U.S.-Mexico border with border agents in the daytime.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

As a sanctuary city, Chicago has declared itself a haven for migrants. However, as more continue to arrive, the city has to institute a policy of removing migrants from city shelters as costs for the city increase.

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Straining Resources

Last October, NewsNation reported that Mayor Johson had to allocate nearly $150 million to accommodate new migrant arrivals, which was half of the city’s projected budget costs.

Close-up of a person's hands as they count a stack of US dollar bills. The person is wearing a dark blue shirt, and their fingernails are painted in a light color

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

“Look, over 300 buses have arrived since I took office,” Johnson said. “We’ve stood up a shelter every single week. We continue to renegotiate contracts that have burdened the city in a way that is quite traumatic.”

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No Straight Answers

Anthony Beale, a representative from Chicago’s 9th Ward previously criticized the city government for not being transparent on how funds are being spent.

A overhead look at chicago near the water.

Source: Stephan Cassara/Unsplash

“It sounds like we’re not getting a straight answer on how much we’re spending. You say $300 million, we’re relying on the state, we’re relying on the feds. The state has already said that we can’t come down there looking for any more money,” Beale said.

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Website to Track Spending

The city of Chicago set up a website available to the public that aimed to provide some clarity on where the previous $300 million budget was spent during the migrant crisis.

Brandon Johnson meets Justin Fields, an NFL player.

Source: Brandon Johnson/X

However, an NBC investigation revealed that key details were hidden from plain view, including how much companies were making, and the details of lease agreements with building owners who had their buildings turned into migrant shelters.

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Criticizing the Website

40th Ward representative Andre Vasquez, who is the chair of the cit council’s migrant committee, criticized the website as failing to meet the expectations of many who were looking for answers.

The sun shines like a beacon behind the skyline of Chicago.

Source: Max Bender/Unsplash

“I think it’s a bit more translucent than transparent. You get some information but not the full picture,” said Vasquez.

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Resident Trust

With the circumstances surrounding the government’s handling of the influx of migrants, it’s not entirely surprising that most Chicago voters are unhappy.

Source: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

A survey from Illinois Policy in February found that nearly 70% of voters disapprove of Mayor Johnson’s job on the migrant crisis. An ABC Chicago poll found in October that a majority of Chicago residents want to end the city’s sanctuary status.

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