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Asylum-seekers cleared from once-crowded Chicago police station as city begins to enact new policies

Alice Yin and Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

So far this week at least three new buses have arrived in Chicago, and some of the passengers are still being funneled to police stations or airports. That is because Johnson’s promise of erecting winterized base camps to hold asylum-seekers before they are moved to shelters has yet to be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the 60-day policy that began last Friday will not see its first results until mid-January and, even then, the initial impact will be meager as only new arrivals to the shelter system on Friday plus about 50 residents who have been there since 2022 received a first wave of notices from city officials.

One of the volunteer leaders at the 18th District station, Amanda Betts, said she was happy to see the city move migrants staying there to shelters on Saturday.

“I’m so thrilled that they are out of the stations, and at least they aren’t sitting on the sidewalk, in tents, with rain pouring down and snow,” she said.

Betts, who has been volunteering at the station for seven months, said the stations were untenable. Migrants weren’t allowed to use inside bathrooms during the day. Chicago police turned off outside electricity, so people couldn’t charge their phones to find job opportunities and apartments — or to call their relatives. And the weather was getting worse by the day.

While she lauded the city’s decision to move people out of the cold, the new announcement of removing migrants from city-run shelters after 60 days has dampened her relief.


“It’s as though they’re just putting Scotch tape on gaping wounds,” Betts said.

At another police district on the West Side, some longtime migrant response volunteers took their sharpest stand yet against the Johnson administration.

Mutual aid volunteers at the 10th District station at 3315 W. Ogden Ave. released a statement via member Lydia Wong that said they will no longer coordinate their efforts with the city due to the 60-day shelter limit policy.

“Every person entering the shelter is being placed in a system that is designed to fail, and will burden the city of Chicago with increased homelessness and with a public health crisis,” Wong said in a statement to the Tribune. “To this end, we can no longer in good conscience facilitate the moving of migrants from stations to shelters … (or) support the city’s work related to move migrants from airports and police stations to city-run shelters, only to inevitably turn them into the streets again.”


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