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A migrant family in peril: He's paralyzed. She just had a C-section and is caring for her husband and children. And their immigration papers just got tossed.

Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

Genesis Chacon was pregnant when she essentially carried her husband and toddler across countries to get to Chicago.

Her healthy, able-bodied husband became paralyzed from the chest down due to a rare condition he developed while on their journey to the United States last summer. Now, the 22-year-old mother from Venezuela tends to his every need — even as she recovers from a C-section she had four weeks ago to deliver their daughter.

Instead of recuperating with light activity as strongly recommended by doctors, Chacon is carrying her husband’s wheelchair up and down the stairs of their apartment, cleaning his gaping bedsores and changing his underpads — on top of caring for their newborn and 4-year-old daughter.

The city had resettled the family Jan. 28 into a second-floor apartment in Chatham. Isolated inside with all her responsibilities, Chacon learned Tuesday that city officials at the Inn of Chicago in Streeterville — where they’d been staying before being resettled — had thrown away the family’s immigration papers and their newborn daughter’s birth certificate, along with the rest of their belongings. The staff knew of the family’s dire circumstances.

“As per protocol staff gathered the rest of their belongings, labeled and stored them. Case management made them aware they will hold them for 48 hours,” said Cassio Mendoza, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s deputy press secretary, in a statement to the Tribune. “An extension was granted for a period of 72 more hours at which point the belongings were disposed of.”

As Chacon and her family just try to survive, they have no idea how they will recover what the city threw away.


“It’s been hard. At the shelter, we didn’t receive medicine or enough food,” Chacon said. “But thank God we’re not sleeping on the street.”

A call from the city

Her husband, Marilieser Gil-Blanco, 23, was sitting in his wheelchair at a Walgreens pharmacy when he learned shelter officials had thrown away their documents.

He had just left a doctor’s appointment, where he’d discussed next steps in the care plan for his condition of transverse myelitis — inflammation of the spinal cord. His symptoms include loss of movement in his legs and uncontrolled bowels.


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