Chicago Migrants

Community meeting planned for proposed base camp for migrants in Chicago's Brighton Park neighborhood

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Construction is underway at a vacant lot at the intersection of West 38th Street and South California Avenue in Brighton Park as city officials are proposing to build a base camp to house migrants at the site.

“We don’t have resources in this community for that amount of people,” nearby resident Ava Canas told NBC Chicago. “It’s inhumane.”

Ava Canas moved into the neighborhood 35 years ago and said this location is not a good idea.

“We already live in a neighborhood barely surviving because of gang activity and drugs, whatever, and to bring that here in our neighborhood—it’s going to be war,” she said.

12th Ward Alderwoman Julia Ramirez did not return our request for an on-camera interview when asked about the proposed plan.

She released a letter Monday night saying the city has been working with the property owner after an application was submitted for the potential site. She said city departments have been on site since last week trying to see if the location is feasible.

She added, “The Johnson administration has informed me that they are taking feedback into consideration, however ultimately if the water department approves the site, the city will be moving forward regardless of where I stand on the matter.”

Since last summer, more than 18,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago, with 3,600 individuals still waiting to be placed into shelters. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is helping the city and state to find long term housing for migrants. 25 parishes have been sponsoring families and providing rental and financial assistance.

“It makes a difference in their lives it makes a difference in our lives and it makes a difference in the ministry program that exist within the local parish” said Marilu Gonzalez, Catholic Charities Regional Operations Director.

Catholic Charities said the sponsorship program has helped 154 migrants, including a family of four from Venezuela. 40-year-old Jairo and his wife Ana told NBC Chicago in Spanish through an interpreter they are truly grateful for the help.

“One day he hopes to have his own home and hopefully be able to pay it forward to someone else,” he said through an interpreter.

As for the proposed site for the base camp, residents like Canas said what the city is doing is wrong.

“Is this the best that the United States can do for migrants,” she asked. “This is the best? That corner right there? That’s the best we can do? Come on.”

It’s unclear exactly how many migrants will be housed at the possible site or when the camp is going to be ready. A community meeting about the city’s proposed plan will take place next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Kelly High School.

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