'Lying from Day 1': Chicago residents outraged as migrant camp construction begins

After months of heated debate and community pushback, the City of Chicago is going through with its plans to construct a winterized base camp for migrant housing in Brighton Park.

Located at 38th Street and California Avenue, crews wasted no time Wednesday – nearly completing the framework for two massive tents in the southeast corner of the lot.

"They’re going to start moving as soon as they can, because they gotta cover their tails, and I’m talking about the mayor and the alderwoman. They’ve been lying since day one," said Ricardo Palacios, community member.

While city officials haven’t revealed a move-in date for migrants, they previously stated that once the build starts, the encampment will be finished in a matter of days.

On Wednesday, FOX 32 Chicago spoke with a woman who has been hired to work security at the encampment. She said she hasn’t been given much information, but knows she will be monitoring the premises – both inside and outside. She did not wish to be identified, but said her start date is this Friday, Dec. 1.

For months, neighbors feel they've been kept in the dark, but now it's as clear as day. Multiple tent structures will be erected on the land and migrants will soon be calling the site ‘home’ – despite fierce opposition from community members.

"Nobody was really told this was going to happen, they basically said, ‘we’re going to do this, shut up,’" said Michael Patlan, community member.

The temperature-controlled structures are being built by the security firm GardaWorld Federal Services, based in Canada, and will include bathrooms, showers and even a mobile kitchen.

City officials say the encampment could house upwards of 2,000 new arrivals. Migrants will have an 11 p.m. curfew, but neighbors fear it will be tough to enforce and say they are worried about a potential uptick in crime.

"I can handle myself, I worry more about the children in the neighborhood," said Patlan.

Community members are also concerned about schools becoming overcrowded.

Plus, The build comes as neighbors are still sounding the alarm about what lies beneath the surface.

"They just opened up Pandora’s box," said Palacios.

Formerly an industrial site, residents believe the soil is contaminated. From the start, they’ve been vocal about the issue – and say previous attempts to utilize the land failed because of it.

"You got the railroad tracks right behind, when it rains the water comes in," said Palacios. "So guess what’s going to end up happening? Sooner or later, people are going to end up getting sick, they’re going to sue the City of Chicago, us as taxpayers, we’re going to end up paying double."

The city has conducted environmental testing, but still hasn’t released the results.

On Wednesday, FOX 32 Chicago asked the Office of Mayor Brandon Johnson when those results would be made available. In response, a spokesman for Mayor Johnson released the following statement:

"Details regarding environmental remediation will be provided this week. Again, common mitigation strategies are ongoing and anticipated for completion by the end of this week, weather permitting."

Over the coming days, city officials say that materials will continue to be laid out for additional tent structures.

The city is paying nearly $92,000 per month to lease the lot. That comes on top of the $29 million contract it signed with GardaWorld in September to build migrant base camps across the city.