FOP boss files complaint about city housing migrants at police stations

At least eight migrants, including three children, had been staying at the Central District since they got to Chicago. The Salvation Army moved most of them to a shelter Monday afternoon.

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Migrants have been housed at the Chicago Police Department’s Central District, 1718 S. State St., for months. The Salvation Army moved most of them to a shelter on Monday, April 3, 2023.

Migrants have been housed at the Chicago Police Department’s Central District, 1718 S. State St., for months. The Salvation Army moved most of them to a shelter on Monday, April 3, 2023.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times file

The leader of Chicago’s largest police union said he filed a formal complaint Monday about the city housing migrants at police stations, a practice he warned is “inhumane” and sends an “eff you to cops.”

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he lodged the complaint with the Chicago Police Department’s labor relations division. He said he was told the city’s Department of Family and Support Service would “address the situation.”

Groups of migrants have been staying inside the Central District, 1718 S. State St., since at least January. Catanzara said he was told migrants also have been living in the Ogden District, 3315 W. Ogden Ave.

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A City Hall source said Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration told the police department it had to accept asylum seekers because there was no space anywhere else.

“No food, beds or anything else at the districts and kids sleeping on district floors for days,” the source said. “We have begged the mayor to do something and she hasn’t. It’s bad.”

Catanzara said “it’s inhumane” for the city to relegate migrants to sleeping on “hard floors night after night,” insisting they “should not be camping out there indefinitely like a homeless shelter.” He said officers shouldn’t have to work in those conditions, either.

After spending much of Lightfoot’s tenure at loggerheads with the mayor, Catanzara said the move amounts to an “eff you” to the rank-and-file officers who once literally turned their back on Lightfoot after the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French.

Ryan Johnson, a mayoral spokesman, said city officials are “working to coordinate safe passage for all new arrivals,” though he declined to answer specific questions from the Sun-Times.

When asylum seekers show up at city-owned facilities, “a shelter placement request” is made immediately, Johnson said. The city then works “to transport the individuals and families to a shelter once space is available” and also partners with community organizations “to assist with the provision of temporary shelter and other services.”

“This humanitarian crisis remains fluid, we have been working tirelessly to connect new arrivals with much needed assistance and support,” he said. “We will continue to work with our local and community leaders to support those in need.”

At least eight migrants, including three children, had been staying at the Central District since they got to Chicago about five days ago. The Salvation Army moved most of them to a shelter Monday afternoon.

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The Salvation Army moved migrants from the Central District police station, 1718 S. State St., to a shelter on Monday, April 3, 2023.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

Erika Moreno said she sought shelter at the police station because a friend told her it was a safe place. “When we arrived we were told to wait inside. They called 311 and all of that,” she said.

Moreno, 28, said she arrived from Venezuela with her 11-year-old son, sister-in-law and 3-year-old niece, all of whom sheltered at the station.

She said they relied on food donations from officers and people who walked into the station offering help. They slept on blankets on the station’s floor and used moist Towelettes to clean up because there wasn’t an available shower, she said.

Moreno and her family were moved to a shelter Monday.

Hidr Lobo and his 11-year-old daughter, Zara, were told to wait at the station because they’re not sure where to place him.

Lobo, 48, who also came from Venezuela, said he wasn’t told how long they’ll be in the holding pattern. He acknowledged that it’s often complicated to find shelter for a single father and a daughter, as kids are often traveling with both parents or just their mother.

Lobo said the stay at the station had been frustrating for him because he’s depending on strangers to get through each day. He noted that he and his daughter hadn’t eaten Monday because no one had come by to feed them.

“It’s uncomfortable, but as long as we have food it’s alright,” he said.

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