Migrants take shelter and live inside of the Near West 12th police precinct in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., August 29, 2023. Credit: Jim Vondruska/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — There are fewer than 1,500 migrants being housed in police stations — the lowest number of people in weeks, as buses are coming less frequently and the city expands its shelters. 

About 1,400 people were waiting in police stations across Chicago for a shelter space as of Tuesday morning, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. That’s down from about 2,800 Oct. 30 and 3,300 Oct. 16, according to data from the office. 

At the same time, the number of migrants in city-run shelters has increased from about 11,200 Oct. 16 to about 12,200 as of Tuesday, according to city data. 

The city acknowledged the shift in populations at the police stations and city-run shelters during a press briefing last week. 

However, it’s unclear if every person who’s no longer at a police station has been moved to a shelter: While the population at police stations has fallen by about 1,900 people, the number of people at city-run shelters has only increased by about 1,000.

Erik and Yuslaibis move their items into a family member’s car as asylum seekers await shelter from the cold temperatures in tents outside the Chicago Police Department’s 2nd District station in Fuller Park on Oct. 30, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

An Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokesperson would not answer questions about where people have gone after moving out of police stations.

Since migrants starting arriving in summer 2022, 7,402 people have been resettled and 2,694 were reunited with sponsors, according to city data. 

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, said during last week’s briefing the decrease in people at police stations was due to shelter capacity expanding, but she didn’t specify which shelters are taking in more people.

Pacione-Zayas also said the numbers are still “nowhere near where we want to be.”

How To Help Migrants

• The city has partnered with Instituto del Progreso Latino to create an Amazon wishlist where people can buy supplies for migrants.

• Anyone who wants to donate extra furniture can fill out a form requesting Chicago Furniture Bank pick it up.

• You can find volunteer and donation information on the city’s website.

• Read more: How To Help Migrants In Chicago As Winter Approaches

Mary May, a spokesperson with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the city has opened more shelters recently, including a Ukrainian Village shelter at 526 N. Western Ave that opened this month. 

Additionally, a Pilsen shelter that originally was housing 400 migrants has more than 1,200 people there as of Friday. 

Beatriz Ponce de Leon, the deputy mayor for immigrant, migrant and refugee rights, also said the city worked with the Archdiocese of Chicago to find “viable” church properties to possibly serve as shelters in the coming months. 

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment and referred questions to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

More than 21,000 migrants have come to Chicago since August 2022, the majority of whom were sent here on buses by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as a protest of federal immigration policies. 

In September, the city was seeing a record number of bus arrivals. More than two dozen came during the last week of the month, and leaders were worried just as many could start arriving every day. 

But since then, there hasn’t been the large surge in bus arrivals officials were concerned about, according to city data. There have been days over the past few weeks where as few as two, one or no buses arrived.

There was a similar slowdown in arrivals in November and December 2022, leaders said at the time. And only nine buses arrived Jan. 1-May 12, according to city data. 

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications didn’t address questions about bus arrivals slowing down recently. 

Beatriz Ponce de León, Deputy Mayor for Immigrant, Migrant and Refugee Rights, speaks during a community meeting hosted by Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th) and city officials at Kelly High School about the planned tent camp for asylum seekers at 38th Street and California Avenue in Brighton Park on Oct. 24, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

The city is moving forward with Johnson’s plan to build tent camps to get everyone moved out of police stations before winter. 

Last week, the City Council signed off on a plan to turn a South Side vacant lot into a migrant tent camp. City officials are also finalizing assessments for another tent camp site at 38th Street and California Avenue in Brighton Park. 

Madison Savedra discusses the city’s tent camp plan:

Johnson’s tent camp proposal has come under fire for contracting Virginia-based GardaWorld Federal Services and its subsidiary Aegis Defense Services for the plan, with many pointing out its checkered history

But city officials have defended the decision as a necessary “last solution.”

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