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Backlash to migrants surges in Chicago's predominantly Black areas

Residents say they feel that the city is prioritizing asylum seekers over their underserved communities.
Backlash to migrants surges in Chicago's predominantly Black areas
Posted at 9:14 AM, Oct 23, 2023

In boisterous community meetings across the long-marginalized south and west sides of Chicago, residents have been angrily venting over plans to house migrants in their neighborhoods. 

Natasha Dunn, a longtime resident of Chicago's south side, has been leading the fight to keep migrants away from this shuttered public school. 

"We have crime that's out of control. We have a high unemployment rate. We have all these different things that I believe should be addressed but isn't. And now you're going to pile in a different group of people into our community. It's unjust," said Dunn. 

Dunn filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that residents are "entitled to the use of the parks, schools and police stations that they pay taxes for." 

"We do not want to be overburdened by migrants being put in our neighborhoods," said Dunn. 

Chicago has been scrambling to find housing for the nearly 20,000 migrants who have arrived since August 2022, many in buses sent from the Mexican border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

SEE MORE: Democrats and Republicans react to Biden building border wall

Thousands are currently sleeping in the city's airports and police stations, awaiting space in new shelters set up by the city — some within public buildings like community centers and vacant schools. 

As winter nears, the city has signed a $29 million contract to build heated tent camps for the migrants. 

Though no locations have been announced, officials have suggested a parking lot next to a former grocery store on the city's far south side. 

Tanesha Peeples, who lives a block away, says her neighborhood is full of such vacant sites. 

"The city all of a sudden has money to support another marginalized population. To have those resources readily available to another group when we've been advocating for those things for generations is just not right," said Peeples. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson acknowledges the frustration of Chicagoans but urges residents to show solidarity. 

"I know there's been a tremendous burden, particularly on Black Chicagoans. I am fully aware of that," said Johnson. 

Next door to the vacant parking lot, pastor Leonardo Gilbert says his church, which runs a food pantry, is getting ready to serve the migrants. 

"Having our own difficulties does not in any way, shape or form allow us to be relieved of our responsibilities to love and help our fellow man," Gilbert said.

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