Three buses of people from Central and South America arrived at Union Station on Sept. 7, 2022 — the third round of migrants who have been brought to Chicago from Texas recently. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

WEST LAWN — Hundreds of migrants could soon move into a vacant store in West Lawn, but officials are asking for more time to prepare the site and engage with residents.

The Illinois Department of Human Services is preparing to move 658 recent migrants, who’ve been temporarily staying in hotels in the suburbs, into an empty KMart, 7050 S. Pulaski Road. 

The migrants were originally supposed to move into the building Feb. 9, but plans have stalled, according to a letter from state Rep. Angie Guerrero that was obtained by WTTW

Guerrero has asked state agencies to pause the project until they can ensure the site is ready for families to live there. She still has questions about how long people will be living there and what type of security and other resources will be provided to them, Guerrero said in the letter. 

“Since day 1, I have been working closely with migrant families to help them find housing, clothing and support to start their new lives,” Guerrero said in a news release. “I have serious questions and concerns about the safety and humanity of the proposed KMart facility and its amenities.” 

The Mayor’s Office and Department of Family & Support Services didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) said she has “major concerns” about the safety of the community as well as the migrants. 

Tabares has urged state officials to engage more with the local community and consider residents’ opinions before proceeding any further with these plans. 

“We need a plan that ensures the safety of the community and its residents,” Tabares said. 

The news comes after a tense few weeks in Woodlawn, where the city placed more than 100 migrants in a vacant school without support from the area’s alderman or neighbors.

At least three people, including a 20th Ward aldermanic candidate, were cited Friday while protesting the arrangements at the former Wadsworth Elementary, 6420 S. University Ave.

The city intends to use Wadsworth as a shelter for up to two years. Up to 250 single men and women will move in eventually.

Neighbors have criticized the city for leaving them in the dark and sharing details only once it was a “done deal.” They’ve also taken issue with the city’s move to renovate the former school into a shelter after letting the property sit vacant for years.

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