Chicago activists raise questions about safety, health of migrants

Chicago activists say it is a humanitarian crisis, having asylum seekers sleeping at police stations. 

They believe it’s a danger to the migrants, the police who work here and the public.

Asylum seekers have been sleeping on the floor of all 25 police district stations in Chicago because the city has run out of shelter space. Pilsen neighbors, shelter workers, and food pantry volunteers bring meals, clothing, supplies and hope.

Community activists say they’ve heard of measles and chicken pox outbreaks and the spread of lice and bedbugs inside – signs the city’s efforts are not working.

Chicagoans Against Violence founder Andre Smith says he talked to an officer who said there have been bedbugs in some police squad cars. 

"If I’m in trouble, or I feel I’m in danger, I gotta risk getting a bedbug or measles or mumps to talk to officer to save my life?" Smith said. 


The city moved some migrants to relieve the crowding at the Near West Side 12th District. Families woke up and packed their things, inside the police station and outside at a tented community, to get on a bus bound for an undisclosed, secure shelter.

Social worker Jessica Brito Jimenez has been helping migrants for about a month. She cried when she learned her new friends were going to a safer place and said it is a step toward them finding a place in the community.

The Chicago City Council recently approved $51 million to support the needs of asylum seekers. Activists want a full accounting of where that money is going.