Chicago’s mayor, Brandon Johnson, has attacked his New York counterpart, Eric Adams, for the latter’s aggressive comments that the large number of migrants arriving from the US-Mexico border will “destroy” his city.
The two Democrats took sharply contrasting stances earlier this week on their handling of the humanitarian crisis aggravated since the far-right Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has been unilaterally bussing migrants to Democratic-led cities over the last year.
Johnson’s remarks came as it was also revealed that he plans to erect heated tents to sleep thousands of people over the harsh midwest winter that are housed temporarily in Chicago police stations while their asylum applications are processed.
“I’m not going to accept the notion that the city of Chicago is going to be destroyed … This is not a challenge that will overwhelm us,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview.
The New York mayor won praise from Republicans as he seemed to blame the Biden administration as much as Abbott and other Republican governors who have sent asylum seekers north, when he said: “Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this … this issue will destroy New York City … The city we knew, we’re about to lose.”
Adams added that 110,000 migrants had arrived in New York City since April 2022 creating a $12bn budget deficit. “Every service in the city is going to be impacted,” he said.
Johnson, however, talked in his interview about the tradition of welcoming immigrants, while also warning that leaving “desperate” people stranded without housing and work permits risked them causing chaos and being drawn into crime.
“We are a city of big shoulders. We’ve been through difficult moments and challenges before. And we’re going to get to the other side of this. I’m confident of that … I was elected to lead. This is not a challenge that will overwhelm us,” Johnson said.
He added to the Sun-Times: “These families are coming to the city of Chicago … If we do not create an infrastructure where we’re able to support, and quite frankly, contain these individuals who have experienced a great deal of harm, individuals who are desperate – if we do not provide support for these individuals and these families, that type of desperation will lead to chaos,” Johnson said.
While Chicago has a history of welcoming migrants, tensions are high because of the stretch on resources.
More than 13,500 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022. About 6,000 are housed in 16 temporary city-run shelters across the city. Approximately 1,650 migrants are waiting to be moved to shelters while sleeping on the floors of police stations and the city’s O’Hare airport.
Many migrants awaiting beds in shelters depend on local non-profits for food and, on the ground, the situation is worrisome for people like Ana Guajardo, a community leader with United Workers Center, an immigrant rights organization. She and volunteers been taking warm meals to people sleeping on police station floors.
“If it wasn’t for many of us, who are paying out of pocket most of the time, who are cooking these hot meals, who are collecting all these donations … I don’t know what would happen. We just need more support,” she told the Guardian on Friday.
Guajardo said the police district where she volunteers was overcrowded. She was there recently and said there was no room for her to walk. “The entire floor of the lobby was full. There was no room,” she said.
Meanwhile, Johnson is not giving details yet on where the city will place the “winterized” tents for migrants he is proposing, or when it will happen, except that plans will begin before winter’s cold hits the city.
“I don’t think that’s an ideal situation,” said Guajardo, predicting that such tents will be crowded with people and adding that “having them in close proximity is not healthy”.
She said that ultimately a long-term or permanent solution was needed and she expressed frustration with the lack of clear plans from city, state and federal authorities, leaving elected officials pointing fingers at each other.
On Adams’s comments, she said she was appalled because most people arriving were eager to help themselves but don’t yet have the chance.
“You should see some of the refugees here, some want to cook,” she said, recounting one who told her, “‘Look, I’ve been cleaning the bathroom, making sure it’s neat so they don’t close the doors on us.’”
A Chicago city council member, Michael Rodriguez, admitted that he did not think Johnson’s idea for winter “base camps” was ideal but he thought it was more dignifying than sleeping in police stations and airports. The precinct in his district has “70 migrants but they only have two bathrooms”, he said.
Rodriguez added that Chicago was a welcoming city and Adam’s remarks were “low”.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/sep/08/brandon-johnson-chicago-mayor-eric-adams-migration-crisis Chicago mayor slams New York’s Eric Adams over migration remarks | Chicago