Brighton Park community members rallied Thursday against Mayor Brandon Johnson’s plan to build a “winterized base camp” for migrants on a vacant, privately owned lot in the area.
That’s where Ald. Julia Ramirez of the 12th Ward and her aide report being battered after attempting to have conversations with residents.
“As someone who was born and raised in Brighton Park and works still in Brighton Park, it’s very disheartening to see,” Andrea Ortiz, director of organizing for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said in reference to the violence spurred at Thursday’s rally.
Ortiz said the rally contrasted what the community saw after former President Donald Trump was elected in 2020 and the ways in which people came together to fight deportation and advocate for undocumented people, in addition to calling on citizenship “for all.”
“So seeing the way that people responded to asylum seekers and new arrivals was really disheartening,” Ortiz said.
Teddy Salazar, a Brighton Park resident, owns a day care center and preschool near the proposed site, and often works directly with refugee families and asylum seekers.
“It’s not just a Brighton Park issue, it’s a human issue,” Salazar said. “I think that the response to the alderwoman today and the response to the community in general is not representing the best of our collective humanity.”
The massive camp would house at least some of the more than 3,800 migrants now living at police stations and Chicago O’Hare International Airport ahead of winter weather.
Salazar said this would be “a military camp and virtually a detention center that we would be keeping people in.”
“I don’t think there’s one exact, one final solution, and I think that’s what makes this such a tense situation,” Salazar said. “I’m thinking of the children and the families and the people who are going to be out in the cold. What we do have control over and what we can do is activate in our own community, gather resources, find a way to make sure that those resources are not just a box tossed off at a bunch of tents that you see. … It needs to be really intentional giving of jackets, blankets, things that people actually need.”
Some residents are calling for more transparency from the city, while others are urging a more permanent brick-and-mortar plan.
While the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council has been focusing on ensuring new arrivals get the resources they need, the council is also committed to making sure the community is not forgotten in the process.
“We’ve been very firm and committed to continuing to demand more equity around the way that our schools are being funded, the jobs that are in our community, safety and what that really means,” Ortiz said. “That means fully funding our communities and offering these resources to folks. As folks are coming into the community, I understand some of those tensions that may arise. But I think that a lot of that anger is being misdirected. Our community has come from years of disinvestment from the city, from the state, from the federal government. … We want to be careful not to miss people’s concerns and feelings.”