Chicago moves migrants from O'Hare, Midway airports after probe

Migrants are no longer camping out at Chicago's two major airports after the Senate Commerce Committee probed the mayor's office this year about how much in federal resources was being spent to keep them there.

A week after the committee's letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson in late January, the migrants were quietly relocated after being camped out at O'Hare International Airport and Midway Airport for months. Johnson's office, the airports nor the Federal Aviation Administration responded to Fox News Digital's repeated requests for comment about where the migrants were transferred.

"Mayor Johnson's office is still withholding crucial information from Congress and taxpayers about the housing of illegal aliens at O'Hare airport," Senate Republican Commerce Committee spokesperson Melissa Braid told Fox News Digital in a statement Thursday night.


Hundreds of migrants live inside O'Hare Airport as Chicago grapples with how to house them

Hundreds of migrants, from babies to the elderly, live inside a shuttle bus center at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1. They sleep on cardboard pads on the floor and share airport bathrooms. A private firm monitors their movements.

"Lawmakers are actively working on aviation safety and funding legislation. The requested information will help ensure taxpayer airport infrastructure money is being used for valid purposes rather than diverted to pay for sanctuary airports caused by Biden’s open border crisis," she said.

According to a Chicago Tribune report last month, Johnson's office announced there were no more migrants camped out at the airports. The removal comes as thousands of migrants were also moved from Chicago's police stations in December.

The report noted that Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, told reporters the removal was part of an ongoing effort to rapidly place migrants in shelters or housing in other cities. Pacione-Zayas noted that the $150 million Johnson earmarked for the emergency migrant response this year would likely be spent by April.

Dozens of migrants, carrying their belongings in bags, board CTA warming buses after being dropped off in Chicago on Jan. 4, 2024. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

"Every day we’re in meetings, on calls with the state, with the county, to figure out what the long-term plan is to get through the calendar year together," Pacione-Zayas said.

The Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote to Johnson about the city's move to house migrants at O’Hare International Airport since March 2023 and, more recently, at Midway International Airport. Images emerged last year of hundreds of migrants camped out in a section of O'Hare. It came as the city struggled to deal with an influx of tens of thousands of migrants since mid-2022.

"Repurposing airport facilities and infrastructure to house illegal aliens not only degrades taxpayers’ investment in the national airport system but, at least in the case of O’Hare, as federally-funded airport facilities are withdrawn from public access and use, it violates the requirement that these federally funded facilities ‘be available for public use as an airport," the letter reads.

"No rational person would define an airport as a facility that houses illegal aliens," they write.

Recently arrived migrants sit on cots and the floor of a makeshift shelter operated by the city at OHare International Airport on Aug. 31, 2023. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The lawmakers sought answers about the number of migrants being housed at the airports, the related costs, the hazards it has created, if it received any federal waivers, and if it consulted with the TSA on matters of aviation safety and security.

The committee says it has not received a response from the city.

Last year, Johnson boasted about his administration’s efforts to provide housing, health care and schooling for the migrants coming to the city, but he has appealed for additional federal help to keep up with the ongoing demand.

He's also asked for nearly $5 billion in assistance from the Biden administration.

On Wednesday, the committee sent additional letters to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Massachusetts Port Authority for more information about the sheltering of migrants at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport.