Chicago mayor declares state of emergency after arrival of migrants from southern border

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, on Tuesday, declared a state of emergency in response to the influx of migrants who have arrived to the city from the southern border in recent weeks.

Since last August, more than 8,000 migrants have been sent to Chicago from Texas, according to the mayor's office.

On Tuesday, another 48 people – including children – were dropped off at Union Station after Lightfoot said they were "inhumanely bussed" to the city by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

"We have been saying now for quite some time: We don’t have any more space. I cannot emphasize that enough," Lightfoot said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Still, Lightfoot said she doesn't expect the buses to stop anytime soon and said the city needs all hands on deck to assist with this crisis.

To handle the recent surge, the city has relied on various departments as well as community-based organizations to provide temporary shelters and respite centers.

"We should all understand that this crisis will likely deepen before we see it get better, so as we move forward, the City of Chicago will have to bring additional locations online to prepare for the arrival of more individuals and families and to relieve Chicago Police Department districts," the mayor said.

"The City of Chicago is in the midst of a national humanitarian crisis, and through a unified effort in accordance with its values as a welcoming city, Chicago is doing everything it can to respond to the urgency of this matter."

The order called on both federal and state governments to assist the city in providing additional resources for sheltering new arrivals.

"I’m disappointed in the allocation of FEMA dollars that we just got and that was announced last week. We got $5.5 million last fall, we got just over $4 million this time. That doesn’t make any sense to me and we have made our disappointment known through the appropriate channels but I’m calling on the federal government to solve this problem. And I’m emphasizing again, if we could put people to work legally, it would lessen the strain on our resources," said Lightfoot.


City leaders say up to 200 migrants are arriving every single day in Chicago by bus and by plane. An estimated 300 migrants are currently living inside local police stations, some needing urgent medical care.

"The crisis is not only exhausting our city’s resources but it’s flat-out dangerous," said Lightfoot.

Lightfoot said there are no plans to house migrants at McCormick Place or Navy Pier, but the city is exploring other options.

"We can’t disrupt the flow of business at McCormick Place and Navy Pier to solve this challenge. We’ve looked at every available Big Box store. As I said, it’s not just a matter of space, it’s a matter of space where we can manage a population humanely," said Lightfoot. "We’re not just warehousing people, we’re not going to treat them in the same way that we’ve seen Governor Abbott do without any regard for their humanity."

With all seven of the city's migrant shelters and three respite sites full, refugees from Venezuela, Mexico, and El Salvador have been forced to find space elsewhere – including in hospital waiting rooms.

"It can be days, we’ve had families sitting our hospital for 5, sometimes 8 days, and these are families made up of children," said Rosanelly Garcia with Sinai Chicago.

As Sinai Chicago's lead emergency department social worker, Garcia – who is a daughter of immigrants – is helping to provide care for those who arrive to the city sick or injured.

"These families have been traveling from their home country for months. The travel is exhausting, it can be very dangerous," said Garcia.

In addition to those who require medical care, Garcia said she is also there to offer support to those who are simply waiting for their next move.

"It’s really about being consistent as a social worker, it’s really about being an advocate for these families and really about looking out for them," said Garcia.

Sinai Chicago is in urgent need of donations to assist migrant families. Those items include brand new blankets, socks, hygiene products, joggers and tee shirts for adults, children’s clothing (including socks and underwear) and children’s pajamas.

Meanwhile, Lightfoot said the city is not yet at the point where it will be calling in the National Guard to assist with this migrant crisis, but says it remains an option.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson says he’s assembled a team to more aggressively address the issue when he officially takes office next week.