CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson traveled to Washington D.C. Thursday asking the White House for funding and help with the city’s migrant crisis.
“The urgency of this moment, was on full display today. And the fact that you have major cities that are pushing the federal government to actually make the critical investments that our cities require, demonstrates that urgency,” Johnson told ABC7 Eyewitness News when he arrived back at O’Hare Thursday evening. “Mayors across the country really placed the expectation on the federal government to provide the type of intervention that we need to support the humanitarian crisis.”
Johnson was joined his counterparts from Denver and New York City in this trip to Washington, although due to a last-minute emergency New York City Mayor Eric Adams canceled his part of the trip and returned home.
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Johnson met with White House advisors, members of the Illinois House Delegation, and later was joined by the mayor of Denver for a meeting with senators including Illinois’ Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
“This is why it’s going to require the full force of government at every single level to intervene here. Look 150 buses alone have showed up since, in the month of October,” Johnson said in an interview with Fox News.
The group of five Democratic mayors is asking for $5 billion in aid from the federal government, with Johnson looking for a good chunk of that and without strings attached.
“The resources that I’m requesting for the city of Chicago are not limited to the migrant crisis,” he said. “That’s just one component of it. Right now, there’s a number that’s been forward about a little bit over a billion dollars. I’ve said repeatedly that the West Side and the South Sides of Chicago need significant investment.”
“I talked an awful lot about the investments that we have to make in neighborhoods that have been starved out for a generation now,” the mayor added.
With Chicago already experiencing winter-like conditions, there is a renewed sense of urgency to do more to get migrants out of the cold and into more suitable housing. But as migrants continue to arrive, the cost of caring for them keeps rising.
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Last week, five mayor’s sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing the need for more federal dollars to manage the crisis.
“This is something that we took very seriously,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “Part of the conversation certainly was about the importance of the presidential supplemental funding request, which also includes support for communities and to continue our work to accelerate the process the process of work permits.”
Despite the political climate in Washington, there is hope in the Illinois congressional delegation that partisanship can be put aside to help cities like Chicago.
“We are committed, as we have always been, to provide shelter, to be a city that welcomes all, but we need parity and funding. And that means that we need at least $5 billion in supplemental funding in to the budget, but that the funding formula be such that cities like Chicago get their fair share,” said U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago).
With a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, money to fund migrants in Democrat-run cities will be a tough fight.
The trip comes one day after the City Council delayed a vote on the purchase of a former grocery store property that the city has designated as the site for a migrant base camp.
There was some heated debate over the migrant crisis during Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting.
In the process, votes on several important issues have been delayed, including the purchase of property for a base camp for migrants.
Despite the cold weather and concerns for migrants sleeping outdoors in tents, city council politics stalled action on Wednesday on that land purchase, and the mayor’s team moved to sink the effort by opponents to put the future of Chicago’s designation as a sanctuary city before the voters next spring.
Chicago’s growing migrant crisis raised tensions during the city council meeting as alderpersons were poised to vote on acquiring a piece of property at 115th and Halsted, where the city plans to erect a tent base camp to house 1,000 migrants or more.
“I haven’t heard anyone present a better solution. Show me something better,” said 26th Ward Alderman Jesse Fuentes.
It’s a move strongly opposed by the Brighton Park community, and a federal lawsuit has been filed to stop the plans.
According to the lawsuit, the plans don’t meet zoning requirements. And, the suit claims, the land may be toxic, posing a danger to anyone living there.
With support in question, a vote on that property was deferred.
“We desperately need more support from the federal government. We desperately need more support from the state government. But, we’re going to continue to do what we can to make sure that we are welcoming people with the best way that we possibly can in this moment,” said 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa, who is also the mayor’s floor leader.
There has been similar pushback in other wards. The city’s search for places to house the migrants is putting another site, on the Near North Side, into play. That building used to be home to the Museum of Broadcast Communications.