CHICAGO – A migrant encampment planned for the city’s Brighton Park neighborhood continues to stir controversy, and on Tuesday, a fiery community meeting unfolded with residents on both sides of the issue.
While the site is located in Ald. Julia Ramirez’s 12th Ward, the meeting was held by Ald. Ray Lopez (15th Ward), who represents a portion of the neighborhood and says he feels residents were shut out during a meeting on the topic last month.
Lopez said he felt it was important to provide residents with a platform to voice their opinions, and announced that all of their comments would be shared directly with the Office of Mayor Brandon Johnson.
The meeting drew a crowd of more than a hundred neighbors, and Lopez said his inbox was flooded with testimony throughout the day.
“546 emails have been received today,” said Lopez.
Through meetings, protests and legal action, residents – who feel they’ve been kept in the dark – have exhausted every effort to kibosh a migrant encampment at 38th Street and California Avenue.
But, behind a wooden fence, work has been underway and a contract is already signed with the city agreeing to pay nearly $92,000 per month to lease the land.
“Ok, you want to spend that kind of money, fine, where’d that $300 million go this year?” asked one community member.
A final decision on using the site will depend on the results of environmental testing, according to city officials.
“We’ll have a much better understanding of how we move forward,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson on Tuesday afternoon.
During a press conference Friday, neighbors expressed concern that the site itself is unsafe, citing previous failed proposals to utilize the land.
The results of the city’s environmental assessments have not been released.
Most of the residents who commented during Tuesday’s meeting are passionately against the encampment, and many hoped their message would reach Johnson directly.
“Guess what buddy, we’re your obligation!” said Ricardo Palacios, a community member.
“You have to have a limit. You have to just say to them, ‘No I cannot do this anymore,’” said another resident.
Others expressed concern with winter fast approaching and asked their neighbors to think about new arrivals and imagine life in their shoes.
“I believe we are in a situation where people are coming here out of necessity,” said one resident named Jocelyn.
“These children are going to grow up, they’re going to be youth, they’re going to be adults, so we want to be able to support them the best way that we can,” said community member Anita.
Ald. Ramirez was not seen in attendance Tuesday evening.
Lopez said he invited the mayor’s office to Tuesday’s meeting but they declined, telling him it is a 12th Ward issue, and they’ll deal directly with the 12th Ward.
FOX 32 Chicago reached out to Johnson’s office for comment but did not immediately hear back.