BROWNSVILLE, Texas (WLS) — The first rough and tumble steps inside the United States that most migrants and asylum seekers take are on a path that is dusty and strewn with trampled clothes, shoes that have been abandoned and personal items tangled in barbed wire.
Many who’ve crossed are trying to make it 1,400 miles north to Chicago, but Chicago leaders visiting the border are trying to inform them that their life in Chicago may not be as easy as they think it will be.
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When asylum seekers finally make it to through the first step of immigration processing at the border many have declared Chicago as their desired city.
“What we’ve learned is that of the individuals that have come through lately, 9% are identifying Chicago as a final destination. So having that information in advance can assist us with planning,” Cristina Pacione-Zayas, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Brandon Johnson, said Thurday.
Every one of them has legal papers that they visibly hold close, but this is just the beginning of a complicated legal process, that even seasoned immigration lawyers in Chicago are still learning to try and help navigate.
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“Immigration can issue them a notice to appear in Chicago. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been filed with the court order that he’s gotten to the court in Chicago or that the court system in Chicago recognizes them. So they’re given this address and there’s lots of different, and there’s lots of different addresses in Chicago that people are given. And they’re coming to Chicago with hopes of entering the system, however the system is quite backed up,” said Ellen Miller, pro bono manager for National Immigrant Justice Center.
Chicago city leaders said it’s become clear through multiple stops in multiple cities that Texas is a temporary stop for migrants after crossing the border. They’re also not part of the state’s efforts to send buses of migrants to Chicago.
With a migrant population of more than 18,000 and counting, Chicago’s challenge is more permanent.