In a significant display of independence, more than a dozen Chicago aldermen are calling on Mayor Brandon Johnson to abandon his 60-day shelter limit policy for migrants, marking the latest instance of the City Council asserting its autonomy in responding to the city’s handling of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
A diverse group of 16 aldermen, including Johnson allies like Aldermen Daniel La Spata and Byron Sigcho-Lopez, joined hands with migrant response mutual aid groups in signing a letter addressed to the mayor. Surprisingly, the call for reconsideration spans the spectrum, with even more moderate council members such as Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th, expressing their concerns.
This protest follows closely on the heels of another bold move by a bloc of 27 aldermen co-sponsoring legislation proposed by Ald. Bill Conway, 34th. The legislation aims to introduce additional City Council oversight regarding the allocation of federal stimulus dollars. This development comes in response to the Johnson administration’s decision to allocate $95 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to cover the costs associated with the migrant mission.
Mayor Johnson initially announced a 60-day shelter limit policy in November, intending to enforce it starting January 22. However, facing extreme weather conditions, Johnson opted to delay the policy’s enforcement. Another extension was subsequently granted until February 1, but with temperatures expected to plummet again, concerns are escalating.
The impending threat of a harsh Chicago winter has compounded the challenges faced by migrants, whose resources are depleting rapidly. The migrants, initially bused north by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in August 2022, have faced a shifting political landscape as cities with liberal immigration policies, like Chicago, grapple with providing assistance.
Since the migrants’ arrival, exceeding 34,000 in number, Mayor Johnson allocated $150 million in his 2024 budget to support their care. However, there are growing concerns that these funds may run out before the end of the year.
Mayor Johnson has been silent regarding the specific number of migrants affected by the upcoming Feb. 1 eviction date from city-run shelters. Last week, 710 individuals received extensions to the 60-day shelter limit, but this number may have increased as notices are issued on a rolling basis.
While Mayor Johnson commended the 1,100 migrants who found alternative housing since the announcement of the 60-day policy in November, details regarding their status, including whether they were part of the group receiving extensions, remain unclear.
The city-run migrant shelter system, currently housing 14,200 individuals across 28 buildings, has been at capacity for months. Over 8,000 shelter eviction notices have been issued.
Despite the need to postpone the policy twice already, Mayor Johnson reiterated his commitment to it on Wednesday but acknowledged a willingness to reassess, stating, “We’re going to continue to review. This is an evolving crisis.” As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, the City Council’s push for a reconsideration of policies demonstrates an increasing desire for a more compassionate and flexible approach to addressing the needs of migrants in the city.