Mayor Brandon Johnson announced Monday he will not evict nearly 2,900 migrants from city shelters this week, suspending the 60-day limit he imposed in November for the third time amid an outcry from progressive members of the Chicago City Council and advocates for the migrants.
However, Johnson did not lift the requirement that migrants leave city-run shelters in 60 days — instead, the nearly 14,200 men, women and children in city shelters will have longer to find more permanent housing or get a work permit from federal authorities.
“Look, this is difficult for everyone,” Johnson said. “There are some limitations on what we can do.”
The evictions were set to start Jan. 16, during a brutal cold snap that followed a severe winter storm that blanketed Chicago with snow. Johnson said the extreme weather meant the evictions would be suspended until this week, when nearly 2,900 migrants had been told they would have to leave city shelters.
“Our plan for emergency temporary shelter was never meant as a long-term housing solution, but we want to give every person and every single family that has come to our city enough time to process their work authorization, find housing, start a new life in our great city,” Johnson said.
More than 35,000 migrants, who are all in the country legally after requesting asylum, have arrived in Chicago since August 2022, most on buses paid for by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, as part of an effort to damage President Joe Biden’s chances for reelection and divide Democratic voters.
Johnson called Abbott’s actions “so irresponsible,” “evil” and “raggedy.”
In all, nearly 5,700 migrants who faced evictions between Jan. 16 and Feb. 29 will not be forced to leave city shelters for another 60 days. An additional 2,100 migrants who faced evictions between March 1 and March 28 will be allowed to remain in city shelters for an additional 30 days, according to Brandie Knazze, the commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services.
Unless the humanitarian crisis gripping the city that has strained relations between Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker eases significantly in the next month and a half, Johnson will face pointed questions in the days leading up to March 16 about whether he is prepared to evict 5,700 people.
The group of people who had been facing eviction from city shelters likely includes 1,700 children, who could have to change schools in the middle of the academic year.
“All efforts will be made to limit disruption, and mitigate harm, especially for school-aged children,” Knazze said.
Johnson called for the federal government to help Chicago, telling reporters the city cannot afford to continue to spend $1.5 million every day to care for the migrants. The city’s 2024 budget includes $150 million to care for the migrants, which Johnson has acknowledged will not be enough.
Johnson said city officials still have no plans to open new shelters or add beds to the 28 existing shelters, but said he hoped state officials would partner with churches and the Archdiocese of Chicago to help care for the migrants.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Olusimbo “Simbo” Ige said efforts were being expanded to improve conditions at all 28 shelters to prevent the transmission of illnesses and ensure that all of the migrants get adequate health care.
Johnson defended his response to concerns about unsanitary conditions at a migrant shelter in Pilsen shared with his administration weeks before a 5-year-old-boy fell ill at the shelter and later died at a hospital.
Johnson said he and his closest aides “took immediate action” after getting an email voicing concerns about “insufficient bathrooms,” “exposed pipes with raw sewage,” “insect (cockroach) infestation,” “possible outbreak of illness with many people being sick,” “insufficient provision of meals and water,” and “poor and disrespectful treatment of migrants housed in shelter by staff.”
“We responded to it as soon as we got the email,” Johnson said.