'What about us?' Chicago residents push back against migrant site as construction gets underway

After months of pushback from community members, a migrant encampment on Chicago's South Side is becoming a reality.

Residents who live near 115th and Halsted say construction has been ramping up over the last several days. Yet, officials have not been forthcoming about the details.

FOX 32 Chicago has asked for – but has not received – a project timeline from the Office of Mayor Brandon Johnson.

On Sunday night, a spokesperson for the mayor told FOX 32 the site "appears viable and the intention is to stand up a base camp on the site."

The official also said the city is "performing work on the site to confirm the underlying infrastructure’s viability before initiating construction."

On Sunday afternoon, FOX 32 drove to the encampment site to film the progress – but it was something construction crews were quick to cover up.

Behind a newly installed chain link fence that surrounds a once bustling grocery store, there is no denying that movement was being made. Mounds of dirt are on site, along with construction equipment and crew members.

"I heard they were out until 1 o’clock in the morning," said Annette Cain, community member.

However, the work being completed Sunday wasn’t visible for long. Within 15 minutes of FOX 32 arriving there, a Department of Water Management truck was positioned directly in front of our crew’s camera and tripod – seemingly to obstruct the view.

That’s not all. Workers then lined the chain link fence with a black privacy screen. Now, those passing by cannot see into the lot.

"As a taxpayer, it makes me feel horrible. We have a corrupt system, they are not listening to the people," said Cain.

Residents, including Cain, have been speaking out against the encampment since the very start.

The temperature-controlled facility is expected to be built by GardaWorld Federal Services. The lot formerly housed a Jewel-Osco. It borders the city's Roseland, Morgan Park, and West Pullman neighborhoods.

"So now I’m looking as a single mom, what about us?" said Jequetta Vaughn.

Vaughn is a single mother of four children, who attend school in the neighborhood. Like Cain, Vaughn's concern stems from a lack of resources for residents.

"How about build something for the kids, the community, but instead this is the first thing you do – build a tent city," said Vaughn.

City officials are adamant that a mixed-use housing development, Morgan Park Commons, which is planned for the same site will go off without a hitch next fall, but neighbors say they’re losing hope.

"I don’t believe it. If it happens, it won’t be for us," said Cain.

The developer, Far South Community Development Corporation, also maintains that they will still break ground on schedule.

"At the conclusion of the base camp mission, the City intends to transfer ownership of the site to a local community development corporation and fully provide support for the development of affordable housing and retail space on the site," a city spokesperson told FOX 32 Chicago on Sunday.

Meanwhile, community activist Patrick Gibbons, says he is turning up the heat.

"What we want to do is we want to file an injunction against the City of Chicago," said Gibbons.  

Gibbons says he hopes to take legal action by Thanksgiving.

"The mayor’s office should be more transparent, and there’s a lack of communication all the way around," said Gibbons.

FOX 32 Chicago asked the mayor's office when the encampment will be operational; however, that question went unanswered.

We also contacted Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st Ward) to see if he would share more details, but FOX 32 Chicago did not immediately hear back.