Mayor Brandon Johnson Scraps Plan to Travel to the Southern Border; Small City Delegation Will Go

Mayor Brandon Johnson addresses the news media on Monday, July 17, 2023. (Heather Cherone/WTTW)Mayor Brandon Johnson addresses the news media on Monday, July 17, 2023. (Heather Cherone/WTTW)

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Monday he had scrapped plans to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to get an up-close look at the starting point for the more than 18,500 migrants that have made their way to Chicago.

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Johnson concluded his time was better spent in Chicago, grappling with the crisis that has strained the city’s social safety net and exposed deep tension between Chicago’s Black and Latino communities, officials said.  

More than 3,567 migrants are living in police stations across the city and at O’Hare International Airport with another 11,043 migrants living in city shelters as of Friday, according to city data. Johnson has said the crisis was caused by “right-wing extremists bent on sowing chaos and division in our city.” 

Johnson will focus on “the immediate urgency of adding shelter space to house thousands of new arrivals currently sleeping in police stations, airports or outside,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. 

“With the weather growing colder and hundreds of migrants arriving each day, it is more important than ever that every stakeholder at the state, federal and local level work diligently to address this challenge, while continuing to meet the needs of Chicago and Illinois residents,” according to the statement from the mayor’s office.

Instead, Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant, and Refugee Rights Beatriz Ponce de Leon will lead a small delegation of city, state, faith and philanthropic leaders to the border. 

The delegation, scheduled to leave Tuesday, will travel to El Paso, San Antonio, McAllen and Brownsville in Texas, the point of departure for most migrants traveling to Chicago by both bus and air, officials said.

The delegation will gather information “about ways to alleviate the financial and operations challenges in both Chicago and at the border” by “establishing better lines of communication” with officials and nonprofit groups, according to the statement.

“The Chicago delegation will also be sharing pertinent information about extreme housing and weather conditions currently facing asylum seekers in Chicago, and the immense challenges awaiting those without verified sponsors,” according to the statement.

Johnson told reporters Oct. 4 that he planned to travel to the southern border to “assess the situation.”

City officials are considering building a massive tent to house at least some of the more than 3,500 migrants now living at police stations and O’Hare International Airport on a vacant, privately-owned lot in Brighton Park, Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th Ward) said Sunday. 

Those plans have yet to be finalized, officials said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]


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