Despite vocal opposition, the City Council pushed forward with the funding, ratifying it with a 34-13 vote. Critics say this allocation, projected to last until the end of June, has been triggered by the influx of migrants into Chicago – a sanctuary city – prompted by President Joe Biden's border crisis. The city has reportedly received over 10,000 migrants since August last year.
The impending City Council vote was met with a press conference hosted by Chicago Republicans, the Black Community Collaborative, and the Neighborhood Network Alliance, calling for rejecting the funding proposal. Chicago GOP Chairman Steve Boulton voiced concerns over the lack of transparency regarding the funding source and the planned utilization of the funds.
Boulton stated, "We don't know where that money is coming from. We are not being told where that money is going to be spent. We are not being told how it is being spent. It is irresponsible for the City Council to appropriate what is no more than stopgap money that will get us through a month or two and then the problem will still be staring at us in the face."
Opposition to the plan was further emphasized by black residents, who argued that local Chicago citizens should be the priority for funding allocation. One such resident, Caroline Ruff, a Black Lives Matter Women of Faith member, implored the city council during the meeting to reject the proposal. She emphasized the urgency of addressing issues within their community, such as homelessness and mental health services, before extending aid to the migrant population.
Ruff expressed, "I understand that $51 million are gonna be voted on today and I encourage the alderman to please vote it down because number one, we have not opened up the schools for our homeless, we see them in the streets everyday, I make sure that the homeless are fed with clothing. We need to take care of our community, we need to take care of our black community, we need to open up these schools for mental health."
Andre Smith, CEO of Chicago Against Violence and another vocal critic, cited his recent arrest for stopping a migrant bus as indicative of the city's misplaced priorities. He urged the city council to consider a reparations plan for black Americans instead.
Smith admonished, "How dare this mayor and city council have the guts to give migrants $51 million. I demand you to have the same passion and urgency to pass the City of Chicago Reparations Ordinance and also give us an office for black Americans, just like the new Americans."
Despite the objections, the decision to approve the $51 million for migrant support was finalized in the same week Mayor Brandon Johnson, newly inaugurated, drew further ire from locals by housing over 300 migrants at Wilbur Wright College.
In his inaugural address, Mayor Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to support migrants, stating, "We don't want our story to be told that we were unable to house the unhoused or provide safe harbor for those who are seeking refuge here because enough room for everyone in the city of Chicago, whether you are seeking asylum or you are looking for a fully funded neighborhood."
As a testament to the mounting opposition against the city's support for migrants, Chicago citizens launched a lawsuit earlier in May, challenging the city's plans to house 500 migrants in a southside neighborhood school. The case argued, "The [city government's] proposed action appears to disregard the zoning laws that are in place to safeguard the South Shore community. The failure to comply with these laws poses a significant threat to the rights and interests of the residents."
The controversy underlines the tensions and divisions within the city as residents grapple with the challenge of balancing humanitarian aid to migrants and addressing the urgent needs of their local community.
Notable among the critics was Natasha Dunn, a Chicago resident, who voiced her frustration with the city's approach. "It is a slap in the face that we, as citizens of the United States of America, do not have the resources and support, but you're going to bring people who are not citizens here in our community, in our buildings that we pay taxes for that you took away from us," Dunn told local reporters. "That is completely unacceptable … The black people in Chicago are bleeding on the streets."
In the lead-up to Mayor Johnson's inauguration on May 15 and since then, protests have become a common sight. Residents have been vocal about their concerns over the city's financial support for migrants, arguing that this money should be used to address pressing issues within local communities instead.
Mayor Johnson, however, remains firm in his commitment to migrants. In his inaugural address, he highlighted the importance of providing refuge to those in need and said that Chicago has "enough room for everyone."
Despite this assurance, Chicago citizens launched a legal challenge on May 10, aimed at halting the city's plans to house 500 migrants in a school located in a southside neighborhood. The lawsuit claims that the proposed actions by the city government "disregard the zoning laws that are in place to safeguard the South Shore community. The failure to comply with these laws poses a significant threat to the rights and interests of the residents."