Mayor Johnson to visit US-Mexico border, assess migrant situation

“This is serious,” said the mayor, who recently met with Mexican officials. Fourteen buses of migrants arrived in the city on Wednesday, with as many as eight more on the way.

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Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks at a podium.

Mayor Brandon Johnson said a team from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrived in Chicago to assess the situation. He plans to head to the border with Mexico to get a closer look at the unfolding disaster there.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times (file)

Mayor Brandon Johnson said Wednesday he planned to make his own trip to the Mexican border — as soon as he can arrange it with his wife and kids — to see for himself the unfolding disaster creating havoc and hardship in Chicago.

“We need to go assess the situation — just like our team has gone to D.C. We need better coordination, quite frankly,” Johnson said. “I recognize what our southern states are dealing with, so going to see it firsthand” makes sense.

Johnson recently had an eye-opening meeting with Mexican leaders.

He said that “2,500 or so families who are seeking asylum reach the southern tip of Mexico. By the time they get to the northern tip of Mexico right on the border of our country, that 2,500 amasses to anywhere from 7,500 individuals to 10,000. This is serious.”

By midafternoon, 14 buses had arrived in Chicago on Wednesday amid word that up to eight more might be on the way. More than 17,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in the city since last year.

A man speaks as Pilsen residents attend a public meeting at Benito Juarez Community Academy.

Pilsen residents attend a public meeting Tuesday at Benito Juarez Community Academy on plans to open a migrant shelter in the area.

Tyler Pasciak-LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Chicago’s role as host of the 2024 Democratic National Convention has put a bull’s-eye on the city’s back, with Republican leaders determined to embarrass the city by overwhelming it with a growing caravan of buses.

“That’s why I’ve been standing up a brand new shelter every single week,” Johnson said. “We’ve renegotiated a contract that I inherited multiple times to cut the costs on services.”

And the city is “prepared to drive stakes in the ground” to build the planned “base camps” of giant tents to house more asylum-seekers, the mayor said.

“It’s a tremendous sacrifice for the people of Chicago. And I certainly know how hard it has been for the people of Chicago. But ... without action, the type of chaos that the Republican Party is causing is going to be greater,” he said.

A group of migrants arrive on foot at Bajo Chiquito after walking from Colombia to Panama.

Migrants arrive at Bajo Chiquito after walking from Colombia to Panama through the treacherous Darien Gap connecting North and South America on Wednesday.

Associated Press

Johnson said he was not surprised Chicago’s migrant crisis has been exacerbated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent plan to ignore the city’s 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and send buses to Chicago around the clock.

“This is the same party that tried to overturn an election. You can’t put anything past these individuals. So, absolutely, they want to punish Chicago for being the greatest freakin’ city in the world,” he said.

“But, we’re going to ... make sure that we’re showing up for people who have needed the government to respond to their critical needs for generations now,” Johnson said. “That’s why I’m making sure that we have mental health services. Bringing Chicago home. Abolishing the subminimum wage. That as much as I’m concerned about this issue, I have not stopped leading on my values. And I won’t.”

Johnson disclosed that a team from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrived in Chicago Wednesday to assess the situation.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that those who want to disrupt our democracy are committed to doing that. It’s a real mission of theirs,” the mayor said. Our hope is that we will continue to get more resources and a stronger commitment from the federal government to be able to provide us with the support that the people of Chicago need.”

Earlier this week, Johnson’s plan to turn Amundsen Park field house into a shelter for 200 migrants faced tremendous pushback from Galewood residents and local Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th).

Taliaferro said the burgeoning crisis is raising historic tensions between Blacks and Latinos to a boil.

Plans to turn the Amundsen Park field house on the West Side into a migrant shelter have been abandoned, local Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) announced Wednesday evening in a letter to residents. 

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) argues that the field house at Amundsen Park, pictured, is needed to give neighborhood youths an alternative to gathering downtown and creating havoc.

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The us-vs.-them debate is no surprise to Johnson, he said. But he cautioned reporters not to misinterpret the tension.

“I know where I live, I know how many schools have been shut down in Austin, mental health clinics. Administration after administration has taken away from Black people. Not mine,” he said. “When individuals say that Black folks want what migrants want, that’s not true. It’s not. Black folks want what they deserve.”

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