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Chicago struggles to house waves of migrants as freezing temperatures hit city


As the migrant crisis continues, some recent arrivals faced a rude awakening on Tuesday morning as freezing temperatures hit Chicago.

“Thousands of migrants sleeping at police stations woke up to freezing cold conditions on Halloween morning as city officials, volunteers and faith-based organizations scrambled to find warmth Tuesday for a population, mostly from Venezuela, that has never experienced cold,” The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday. “Temperatures plummeted overnight to a low of 30 degrees at O’Hare International Airport, said the National Weather Service, and safety networks stepped in to react to emergencies brought on by the cold.”

City officials say the Windy City has accepted more than 19,000 migrants since August 2022, but they are not the only ones who will need assistance during the winter. There are over 68,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness, according to a recent study, the city says.

Migrants are sleeping in conditions ranging from the interior of police stations to living in makeshift cardboard houses on the street.

Chicago tent city

Jose Antonio Hernandez, a Venezuelan migrant and barber, cuts the hair of fellow migrant Francisco Ramos at an encampment outside the 2nd District Chicago police station on Oct. 17, 2023. ((Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images))

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The Chicago Tribune quoted Erika Villegas, a lead volunteer at the 8th District in Chicago Lawn, as she criticized local officials for “not taking this seriously enough.”

She went on to criticize the condition of the tent cities outside of police stations for having been “inhumane” to begin with, “but now this is truly a crisis. There are hundreds of children out there.”

The Associated Press also covered the crisis, noting similarly to the Chicago Tribune that “layering clothing is a novel concept for most of the migrants who are used to warmer climates.”

Associate professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and physician Dr. Scott Dresden observed, “This is certainly a unique winter with a larger population who are without housing than we are used to.”

University of Chicago professor and chief of the section of emergency medicine Michael Kurz offered a similar warning that the situation appears to be more than the city can handle.

A bus drops off migrants in Chicago

A group of migrants exits a bus near a Greyhound station after being transported from Texas Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Chicago.  (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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“We will literally exhaust any resource in order to be able to accommodate citizens of our community and make sure they have what they need,” he said. “But it appears (that) the influx of migrants is rapidly outscaling the resources the city has to provide.”

The mayors of multiple major American cities, including those in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York are reportedly pressing to meet with President Joe Biden about assistance on managing the migrant crisis, warning the previous federal assistance is woefully inadequate.

“Our cities need additional resources that far exceed the amount proposed in order to properly care for the asylum seekers entering our communities,” the mayors’ letter obtained by the Associated Press says. “Relying on municipal budgets is not sustainable and has forced us to cut essential city services.”

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Pilar Arias contributed to this report.



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