Chicago signs $29M contract for migrant base camps

By Chicago 4 Min Read

CHICAGO (WLS) — The city of Chicago has signed a more than $29 million contract with a private security firm to build and operate base camps for migrants.

Zones in the camps would hold between 200 and 1,400 people.

The deal with Garda World calls for at least six locations across the city for asylum-seekers.

Under the contract, other services and supplies, like bedding and linens, food, and sanitary facilities would also be provided.

“They are clearly in a crisis that they inherited prior to that we had an administration that didn’t tell us much of anything, so I do understand there are a lot of difficult decisions, I don’t agree with this one,” said Ald. Andre Vasquez, chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Rights Committee in the city council.

Vasquez found out about the contract at the same time it was reported by media outlets. The Johnson administration quietly inked the deal on September 12.

“Finding out more about this stuff after rather than before makes it challenging for members to support in the long run,” he said.

Several aldermen are demanding more transparency on how the money will be spent, where base camps will be located, and what happens to them once they are no longer needed. They said the Johnson administration has yet to answer any of these queries.

“In the name of the humanitarian process we are forgoing all of democracy just to meet the moment and I think that sends us down a dangerous precedent,” said 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez.

City council membrs are also concerned about reported controversy surrounding Garda World Federal Services, including a Florida contract to relocate migrants.

“If in effect we are sending funds to the same people that are busing people over, that presents what appears to be a clear conflict of interest,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said the city should be spending the $29 million on leasing or rehabbing existing buildings to house the continued influx of migrants.

“Because at the end of those investments you end up with assets and something to show for it,” he said.

Now that President Biden has opened the door to expediting work permits for thousands of Venezuelan migrants, city council members want to know if the Johnson administration’s strategy will change.

The city released a statement saying:

“The first of Mayor Johnson’s priorities is to replace the police stations with shelters forming a base camp. Garda World was selected to build and operate the shelters housing new arrivals based on expediency because of the statewide master contract with the State of Illinois through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Department of Human Services. The state’s contract falls under the disaster proclamation for the asylum seeker mission.

“Using this contract enables the City to stand up the base camps expeditiously, and more quickly move new arrivals from Chicago Police Department district stations as the weather begins to change. As with all City-run shelters, there will be a system in place for individuals to file grievances should any issues arise. The shelters are used in accordance with American Red Cross standards and will be equipped with HVAC systems and heated to a comfortable temperature during the cold weather.

“The base camps will be incorporated into the City’s toolbox for temporary shelters and provide a safe, short-term space with access to immediate care and resources.”

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