Analyzing Accountability: City Hall’s Role in the Migrant Crisis

The roots of the migrant influx that has now become a full blown and officially declared emergency in Chicago go well beyond Illinois.

It is possible to blame a corrupt government, and an economic crisis that has lasted for years. This has led more than 7,000,000 people to leave the country since 2015. Washington is also to blame, since politicians on both sides of politics have failed repeatedly to reform the U.S. Immigration System that most observers agree has been deeply broken. To highlight the difficulties their states are facing in dealing with the influx of asylum seekers, Governors like Greg Abbott of Texas or Ron DeSantis from Florida send busloads to cities such as Chicago and dump them at City Hall.


Lori Lightfoot, the incoming Chicago mayor, is right to be upset about the migrant armies that are being sent our way with no coordination or consideration for what will happen to these desperate migrants once they arrive here. In a subsequent press conference, she vented her frustration with the Biden Administration: “We’ve had lots of discussion, but I am disappointed in the allocation we received of FEMA dollars.” We got $5.5 million last fall. This time we got just over $4,000 million. This is just not logical to me. “We have let the government know our dissatisfaction through the proper channels. But I am calling on the federal to solve this issue.”

Lightfoot, however, omits important details when she denounces Abbott, Biden, and others, according to Crain’s Greg Hinz, in a column published on May 12.

The Pritzker administration points out that Chicago has not collected $30 million of refugee aid available since March. Why? Lightfoot administration officials don’t appear to have filed the required paperwork.

As Hinz reports in a similar way, the leaders of the Pilsen community, including 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez, is poised to open a shelter to house migrants who were sleeping in a police station nearby. He says the city did not respond to his proposal to use churches or closed schools.

It was not surprising that a new influx of men, woman and children were seeking entry after the controversial Trump Administration policy on May 11, which restricted asylum seekers from entering the United States. Abbott’s decision that many of these migrants would be sent northward should not have been surprising. He has been signaling this move for months, if no longer weeks.

Why was the Lightfoot Administration not better prepared to deal with this latest refugee wave? Why hasn’t the available funding been used? Hinz’s summary of Lightfoot’s tenure points out that Lightfoot’s combative style of leadership is at least partly to blame.

Chicagoans, who are worried about the situation of migrants in their city, must hope that the new administration is better equipped to find allies and sweat the little things — like vouchers for state funding — to deal with what’s proving to be a human crisis within the city’s limits. Brandon Johnson will serve as mayor. He can learn a lot from the way his predecessor handled this mess.