Amid loud boos and tears, the Chicago City Council passed the controversial $51 million Migrant Funding Ordinance 34-13 on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. The ordinance is needed to help support the more than 8,000 migrants bused from Texas to Chicago since August.
“Chicago is facing a humanitarian crisis as individuals and families continue to be sent here and other Democratic-led cities across the country without regard for their well-being,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson.
“My administration will do everything in our power to support these new arrivals as they work to rebuild their lives in the U.S. while still upholding our commitments to the residents of Chicago.
“This appropriation is critical to support our efforts to provide housing and services in the immediate future, and I will continue to advocate for additional state and federal funding for as long as needed,” Johnson said in a press release.
The City estimates projected costs of $102M to address the ongoing migrant crisis from January through June 2023. To secure the necessary financial resources, the City has been awarded $30M from the State of Illinois, highlighting its recognition of the urgency and significance of the situation. Additionally, $4.3M has been granted to the City through the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP-H). To cover the remaining costs, the City proposed a budget amendment of $51M, demonstrating its unwavering dedication to supporting new arrivals during their challenging journeys.
Before the passage of the bill, there were emotional and at times disruptive chants from the audience against the alderpersons and some speakers who voiced their pro and con positions. This included a teary-eyed but angry Alderperson Jeanette Taylor (20th) who reluctantly voted in favor of the bill.
“I’m conflicted, and I don’t know how to bring anything else to the table but being honest,” Taylor said. “As a Black person who was imported to this country because I think we forget that sometimes, it wasn’t our choice to come here. If we were told to go back to today, half of us wouldn’t know where to go.
“I am so tired of when there is a crisis for everybody else we got to do something, but when we are having this violence in the Black community, nothing gets said and nothing gets done,” Taylor stated. “That’s by all of us. It ain’t just on elected officials. It’s on all of us, and don’t let these tears fool you,” she said wiping her tears away, “because when I have these tears it is because I’m mad as hell, and I want to fight but I know that is not my position and it’s not my place.
“We fought just to drink out of a damn fountain. It was us but hurt people don’t hurt other hurt people.” Referring to the 800 migrants who have been forced to sleep on the floors of police stations, Alderperson Taylor said to see a one-year-old being bused to the city by his mother “who can barely breathe” was hurtful….
Taylor added, “Voting to say no doesn’t mean I want to hurt migrant families. Voting yes does not mean I don’t care about Black Chicago. Don’t give me that if I vote yes because I am the same woman who went on a hunger strike when they closed schools and half of the people didn’t say sh… They said nothing. You did nothing.”
Alderperson David Moore (17th), who said the soul of the city is on trial, later told the Chicago Crusader, “I had a community meeting for my residents, and they said if our community is not getting anything from it, I should not support it.” He said his seniors need money for their programs and the youth want more money for Ogden Park. I listened to my constituents and voted no.”
Alderperson Bryan Sigcho-Lopez (25), who voted no on the bill, echoed what Ald. Moore said that many Chicagoans are “struggling just to keep a roof over their heads.” Sigcho-Lopez said just as we are talking about sanctuary cities, we should also be talking about reparations. “There are many of us who do believe in the right of self-determination of our communities.”
The son of an immigrant, Alderperson Anthony Napolitano (41st) voted against the bill saying the $51 million will be revisited again and again. He reminded his colleagues that in 1985 “we declared ourselves a sanctuary city.” Yet, he criticized them for pointing a finger at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for busing the migrants to Chicago. “That’s not right. We declared ourselves a sanctuary city,” he said. “That falls on us.”
In voting yes, Alderperson Gilbert Villegas (36) reminded his peers that regardless of their status and said the Census pays $14,000 per person. He said the 10,000 migrants here equates to $140 million that will come to Chicago minus money from CPS Title I. “This is an investment, something we need to do that, unfortunately, the Governor of Texas has put us in. There are 102 counties in Illinois, but all of a sudden it’s a Chicago problem.” Villegas said this $51 million “is peanuts” and predicted, “these busses are going to keep on coming.”
During the public segment, Rev. Andre Smith, CEO, Chicago Against Violence, urged the aldermen to vote against the bill. “I demand you to have the same passion to pass the City of Chicago Reparations Act and also an Office for Black Americans.” He said Blacks came here “chained in the bottom of ships and you give migrants $51 million? Don’t say you’re Black if you’re not going to put your pen where your mouth is.”