The border crisis arrives in Chicago
Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott started busing migrants to Northern cities. Since then, more than 17,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago.
Longtime Chicagoans say caring for the migrants is coming at the expense of their communities.
How do Chicago lawmakers want to fix it?
Today, On Point: The border crisis in Chicago.
Cata Truss, Chicago resident. Plaintiff in lawsuit seeking to prevent city from housing migrants in Amundsen Community Center.
David Moore, alderman for the 17th Ward on the South Side of Chicago.
Sara Izuierdo, co-founder of the Mobile Migrant Health Team.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: The plan is to build a winterized tent city on a vacant lot that will house 2,000 migrants. The city of Chicago’s decision to build the migrant tent base camp in the Brighton Park neighborhood is just like every decision the city has made in the past year concerning the migrants pouring into Chicago.
It’s a decision made in crisis conditions that’s pitting Chicagoan against Chicagoan. That tension, that divide has spilled over all across the city. In the Brighton Park neighborhood, a Chicago alderwoman was assaulted at a protest, and the anger continued to pulsate in a community meeting earlier this week.
Hola, mi nombre es Juliet. Good evening, my name is Juliet. I have been here for about a year now, I arrived here from my country, from Colombia. Seeing children without their parents, people without a roof over their head in the winter, this is temporary. Please don’t hate us for trying to find a better life. (CHEERS)
If you’re not putting a few people here, you’re not putting 200 of 300 here. You’re putting a few thousand, if they could flip this area over if they want. All residents live in this park have our right to know what is going on. And we have our right to say no.
CHAKRABARTI: This is On Point. I’m Meghna Chakrabarti. Since last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been putting migrants on buses and sending them to northern cities. In Chicago, more than 19,000 migrants have arrived thus far, bringing the border crisis to this blue city. The crisis of how to house and care for the migrants has touched almost every Chicago neighborhood.
But the frustration and sense of abandonment is especially acute in several of Chicago’s Black neighborhoods. Residents of Chicago’s Westside Austin neighborhoods say they’ve been historically neglected by the city. They’ve worked hard to create a thriving community center and field house called Amundsen Park.
So when the city announced it would convert Amundsen Park to a migrant shelter, residents were outraged. In a recent meeting with city officials, residents packed the gymnasium, overflowing capacity, saying they are not opposed to immigration. They are opposed to losing a vital community resource that Black children and seniors cannot do without.
I have told the mayor this, I’ve told the superintendent of our parks this, and I will state it to the top of the roof. We cannot take resources from the Black community, a community (CHEERS), not just this park, but any park should not be converted to a migrant shelter.
Mr. Glover, you’re going to get an opportunity to speak.
No. Turn the mic on. We’re tired of hearing politicians. Turn the mic on. Turn the mic on.
Good evening, everyone. I’ll show you how disrespectful this is. On the five o’clock news, they projected that the migrants will be here by Saturday. We’re not anti-migrants, but this is so disrespectful for them to just sit up here with this crap, and we’re supposed to listen to it.
People got to talk about the fact it ain’t taking nothing away from you, it’s enough for all of us.
No, it’s not. Now they’re taking away an asset that people worked 30 years to put together programs, that they’re taking away from us, Black people, with a Black mayor. Can’t miss that point.
I have an 8-year-old, he’s been out here since he’s been 6. We have so many of this. This sports program goes up to 13 youth. You a lot of these young boys, they don’t have fathers So a lot of these coaches they are their fathers. They are their father figures; it shows them how to be raised as Black men in a community.
But yeah, we come in a community of Black people where we already get the low scraps. And then you want to take the little scraps, the resources that we have and put us at the bottom of the barrel? That’s not fair, and I won’t have it, because my son will be here.
No! Turn the buses around! (CHEERS) Thank you.
Good evening. My name is Beatrice Ponce de Leon. I’m the deputy mayor for immigrant, migrant and refugee rights. (AUDIENCE NOISES)
First of all, I want to say thank you for coming here.
No, don’t thank us. We could have been doing something else.
I don’t know if I, I want to make sure I understood your question. You’re asking where will people go?
When they’re here?
So I’m gonna answer that.
Guys, can we give her an opportunity to answer Miss Matthews’ question, please.
So people, the people that we’re talking about are human beings just like you and I.
We know that. It’s not us against them. We don’t need you to tell us that. It’s not us against them. And that’s the problem we don’t care for. We don’t care for that. We’re not insensitive, but we got a problem with you think he would jam something down our throat.
This is our community. And you just don’t dump anything on us and expect us to accept it.
Because, see, I want Mayor Brandon Johnson to understand that you’re selling us out for people who can’t vote for you. We are the borders. And now you stand, and you slap us in the face. I tell you what Tomorrow, we’re gonna punch you in the face at the polling places. We won’t stand for this. We say no!
CHAKRABARTI: Several moments there from the Amundsen Park community meeting in Chicago. You heard at the beginning of that series of cuts Alderman Chris Taliaferro of Chicago’s 29th Ward and ending with resident Cata Truss.
You’ll hear a lot more from her later. Now as for Mayor Brandon Johnson, he says the city of Chicago and state of Illinois have allotted more than a quarter of a billion dollars to accommodate newly arrived migrants. The federal government has spent a similar amount to support cities receiving migrants nationwide.
Nevertheless, Mayor Brandon Johnson said at a press conference that he places responsibility for this crisis squarely at the feet of the Biden administration.
MAYOR JOHNSON: The failure of federal policies is now impacting the people of Chicago in a very dramatic way.
CHAKRABARTI: So today, we’re going to take a look at that impact of the migrant crisis in America’s northern blue cities.
Well, Cata Truss joins us now. You heard her in that tape a little bit earlier. She’s a resident of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood. She’s also a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to stop the city from housing migrants at the community center, the Amundsen Community Center. Cata Truss, welcome to On Point.
CATA TRUSS: Thank you, Meghna. I’m glad to be here this morning.
CHAKRABARTI: I’m grateful that you could join us. Can you just take a minute first to describe to me the neighborhood of Austin, like what’s it like and why is the community center so important?
TRUSS: The Austin neighborhood is a community full of working-class individuals who have taken the time to put work in here in this community. And one of the reasons that Amundsen Park is so important to me is because it’s been a vital part of the neighborhood that has helped to flourish our young people who have come through that park district and those various programs. I have five, I’m the mother of five boys.
All of which played football at Amundsen Park. All of them started out in that program. One of my sons went on to become All City, All State. He also went on to play for the college that he attended and graduated from. As a matter of fact, all five of my boys are college graduates, and so we are a community that has taken the time to pour into each other and to pour into that part.
And to pour into communities around us, our sisters and brother communities. My husband and I are not just people who live in a community. We also ran a youth organization some years ago. And Amundsen park is one of the parks that we use to host baseball tournaments when we ran a baseball program. And so those, it is one of the crown jewels of this community.
And so to see it potentially be lost to migrants is a problem for me. And I also feel that the city, the state, as well as the Biden administration have not done enough to deal with this crisis. I think that there are other alternatives to dropping migrants in our parks. But I also know that there is a bigger picture here.
CHAKRABARTI: We’re going to get to that bigger picture a little bit later in the show because there definitely is a bigger picture. But can you, it’s a little hard to follow. Things seem to be changing a lot regarding Amundsen Park. So correct me if I’m wrong about any of this mistrust. First of all, it seems as if, has the plan to house migrants there been put on hold and is the community center still open?
RUSS: It has been put — the plans have been put on hold. The community center is open, but there are no programs being housed there. The staff has been cut. I think they may have 1 or 2 people who are on staff that have the doors open. primarily for people who might want to come in and use the bathroom. I think that’s the only reason I could see for having it open.
But no, the programs are not there. The programs have not been returned. And as far as we know, it is still on hold pending the court outcome.
CHAKRABARTI: Of the lawsuit that you’re a part of.
TRUSS: Yes, ma’am.
CHAKRABARTI: Okay. Now, in the moments from that community meeting that we played at the top of the show, there was one thing that really stood out to me. Is that residents went out of their way to say, they’re not opposed to immigration or migrants, but the particularities of the history of the Black community in Chicago makes this a moment where you heard folks say that they feel like they’ve already been at the bottom of the barrel and now they’re just left with the scrapes.
Can you tell me about how, why that is important to understand regarding the community’s reaction?
TRUSS: One of the things that you have to remember is that most Black communities in the United States have been disinvested in, our people have been marginalized. Our education has been subpar at best.
We’ve been underfunded, under resourced, and this is historical. And so it is disheartening to see the amount of money that not just the city of Chicago, but the state of Illinois, as well as the federal government, has been willing to pour into the city of Chicago, specifically for the migrants. We have been asking for and fighting for equality in this city, in this country, for as long as Black people have been here.
And we have yet to receive our due.
CHAKRABARTI: Today we’re taking a close look at the migrant crisis in America’s Northern cities, specifically in Chicago. And I want to let everyone know that we did indeed multiple times try to contact mayor Brandon Johnson’s office in Chicago for interview request and for comment.
They never acknowledged that we even had contacted them. I’m joined today by Cata Truss. She’s a Chicago resident in the neighborhood of Austin. And Ms. Truss, I’m so sorry I had to interrupt you earlier, but you were talking about the historical disinvestment in Black neighborhoods and how that makes the possibility of losing Amundsen Park to a migrant shelter, that much more painful and infuriating.
I just want to let you complete your thought there.
TRUSS: I just wanted to say that this is just the beginning. And when we talk about lacking resources, think about what’s going to happen when these children begin to attend school. Some of them are already doing it. And because there’s a language barrier, that means that they’ll have to have additional resources that will probably be taking away from Black kids and given to them because they’ll have the need.
And this also begs to ask, what happens to those teachers the language, those teachers who can’t communicate with those students, what happens to them? See, these are things that we have to talk about. We have to think about, we have to have conversations about, what happens when we can’t continue to do life, to have life as we’ve known it.
Because we have to have ourselves pushed aside for someone else. And the Black community has always been a welcoming community. We’ve always accepted things and people with open arms. And I think that we’re at the point where we’re saying, “No, hold on, wait a minute, we’re already under resourced.”
We’re not necessarily willing to step back and allow the small resources that are the crumbs that you throw us to be divided. There’s not enough for us as it is. And so you’re asking us to step aside, just think about before the migrant crisis happened here in the city of Chicago, we had over 65,000 people who were homeless here.
We’re taking care of migrants and we’re still not taking care of the base that was already here.
CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. Ms. Truss, let me just step in here because this is something that is so evident in what’s happening in Chicago, about people who generally have the same set of values, finding themselves really at odds with each other because of wanting to be compassionate for migrants that are coming into the city, versus also, as you said, recognizing the current reality for many Chicagoans.
As it already exists. Just for a moment here, I want to bring in a slightly different perspective. And it’s from Sara Izuierdo. She’s the co-founder of the Mobile Migrant Health Team in Chicago. It’s a group of around 250 volunteers. Doctors, med students, lawyers, and social workers. They provide aid to newly arrived migrants and anyone else experiencing homelessness in the city.
The Mobile Migrant Health Team, by the way, is not funded by the city of Chicago. Now, Sara is a medical student herself. And at first, her family, which runs a local Peruvian restaurant, they were donating trays of foods to migrants sheltering in police stations, which is where a lot of migrants still currently are in Chicago.
And so that’s when she founded the Mobile Migrant Health Team. As the number of migrants arriving in Chicago began to overwhelm the city’s shelter system.
SARA IZUIERDO: My own family is a family of immigrants, so I really would have appreciated, let’s say, it was my own dad or someone in my family who had come and was sick, that they would have had the opportunity that someone was looking out for them, too.
There was probably a good week and a half, where people kept telling me that there was a child who was extremely malnourished. And it was probably us going out every single day and asking people, looking around, checking, seeing if we could find this family. And finally, someone gave us their phone number, and okay, here goes.
When I finally made the call and I went to talk to them and everything, they were in a shelter here in Chicago that also is an auditorium. And they had moved around to maybe three different police stations. Because of the medical complexities of the child, a shelter that had taken them in previously did not feel comfortable with them staying there.
Which landed them back in a police station and our physician said this kid needs to go to the emergency room right away. So the father said, “Okay, let’s go. Can you come with us?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come with you. Of course, I’ll come with you.” And so that evening in the emergency room, we had just spent the entire time just talking. We were playing games to distract him. And all the way up until maybe 4 or 5 a.m., it was just like a fulfilling experience being able to at least be there with someone.
There are communities in Chicago that have been disenfranchised since forever. That is just the truth. So it’s really hard for me to hear people say, especially in local government, Chicago needs to invest in our communities. When they had the option to do that, and they haven’t been, it’s just much easier now to place the blame on newly arrived migrants than take responsibility For the things that local government should have been doing since forever.
The food distribution to police stations where people are staying is almost entirely based on volunteer infrastructure. A lot of small businesses and people coming together and creating schedules to deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is no reason why there should be all of these small family businesses donating food when we could be paying them to take on this responsibility.
To me, this is not an either-or type of situation. It is a situation where we can use money that’s already going to be spent no matter what. Because we are in a crisis, but we can use it in an intelligent way. To make sure that we are giving back and investing in people who have been disenfranchised.
CHAKRABARTI: That’s Sara Izuierdo, co-founder of the Mobile Migrant Health Team in Chicago. I want to bring David Moore into the conversation now. He’s an alderman for the 17th Ward on Chicago’s South Side. Alderman Moore, welcome to On Point.
DAVID MOORE: Thank you so much, happy to be here.
CHAKRABARTI: So one of the things that links what Ms. Truss has been telling us about the Austin neighborhood and what you heard Sara Izuierdo just say there is, they’re seeing a mutual failure in governance in Chicago that’s exacerbated this crisis. How do you respond to that?
MOORE: First of all, let me put this in context from the beginning, because there are a lot of people who are confused or people that say things about Harold Washington, who is the one who really initiated the sanctuary city ordinance and yes, that’s partially true. But the partially true in that is, and he was clearly, and he stated when he put it out there, but it was that the city was not going to help ICE arrest people, or if people are arrested send them to ICE if they didn’t have, if they were here illegal, they were not going to do ICE’s job for them.
So I want people to put that in perspective and that’s, and even when Rahm Emanuel, I think, brought it back up under his administration and stated it again and shored it up, it was a situation when the Republican Donald Trump’s administration was in and the situation came up and it came about, “Hey, we’re not going to be deporting.”
And so that was the focus. It wasn’t about sanctuary. We just opened up the borders of Chicago or the lines of Chicago to bring everybody in. So let’s start there first. Now, let’s go on. Now, this situation begins to happen. And the governor of Texas began to bus people here. But not only the governor of Texas, you have the Catholic charities who’s supposed to be handling things at the border and getting paid for, are actually paying and using the government money to put migrants on the planes to ship them here and then get some extra money to give them rental housing and other things.
So they’re getting over like a fat red in the cheese factory. So we got to make sure we know the context of that as well. Now, let’s bring it now to as they come in and the decisions that you have to make as a leader, as a mayor. When you have to make decisions, you make decisions both for your voters and you have to make it based on your moral compass of what you’re able to sleep with that night.
You asked me if I’m mayor, where I keep that bus moving all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and put it at the doorstep of Joe Biden, because he’s the cause of it. Morally, you may feel I cannot do that. But is it morally okay for them to be sleeping on the ground floor, on the floors of police stations?
So it’s a tough battle that each administration and each leader has to deal with. I would do something different and keep them moving towards Pennsylvania Avenue or send them back or however you want to do it. My thing would be sent them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and make the president act.
Now here’s the other situation.
CHAKRABARTI: Alderman, can I just jump in here there? Because so that’s a very bold and provocative idea, but I want to also just refocus for a moment on the decisions that have been made in the city of Chicago. On the money that has been made available for assistance for this crisis, both from the state and, the federal government, right?
Because the Biden administration did send us a comment from the White House, saying that they have provided communities across the country who were supporting recently arrived migrants with all of the $1 billion in grant funding that Congress has appropriated. So have those funds been used in the best way in Chicago?
MOORE: And that’s where I was going. So we have, first we had $51 million that was put up for city money, which I voted against because that was direct city, state city dollars that was being taken away from our residents. Then there was another, if I’m correct, maybe another $11 or $20 million in federal emergency FEMA money from the state. And then the federal government put in another $20 million. So when you talk about a billion dollars that they sent around, $20 million that came to the city of Chicago was just a drop in the bucket. So the federal government really haven’t stepped up.
Now here’s the situation that I’ve been talking about, when you’re talking about a strategy and a plan now that you’re here. If you’re going to take the initiative, and you’re not going to send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or push them wherever you would need to push people to make this federal government step up.
Then you have to have a plan, and part of that plan should always include the community and the elected officials. We were told by this administration that they were not going to ask permission from the alderman. Or they were not going to ask permission from the residents, that they were going to, when they make a decision, by the time they come out to the community, all they’re doing is telling the process.
And so when Hoya Ramirez was telling her constituents and they’re saying, “Oh, you knew about this.” She did not know about it. She was not lying. And so that’s the problem here when you’re not effectively communicating with the residents. And so that’s where we are right now. And I appreciate Cata so much.
She’s been a fighter on the forefront. But going back to what, I can’t recall your last speaker’s name.
MOORE: Sara. She’s absolutely right. And I’m not going to let people get a pass when you’ve had, especially under both the Lori Lightfoot administration and under the Rahm Emanuel, and under this administration, a little bit under the Rahm Emanuel administration, where the city government has had, from a Black elected official standpoint the power to move a lot of things in the Black community collectively.
And that hasn’t happened, as well as at the state level, where you have a speaker and you have a lot of Black people and leadership that can really do a lot for the Black community and collectively those voices have not come together to work on a common agenda.
MOORE: And that’s what I’m frustrated about.
And that’s what Black Chicago is to be frustrated about. And as they are coming together and mobilizing under this crisis, they should keep that mobilization organized so they can dictate what they want from their government. And if they’re not delivering them, then get those people out of there.
CHAKRABARTI: Okay. Ms. Truss, I’m going to come back to you here in a second, but I want to just zoom out for a little bit and recognize that the origin of how this crisis has moved into Northern cities is the fact that there are so many migrants requesting asylum and crossing the southern border, which is why Texas Governor Greg Abbott has very vociferously defended his busing program, saying it’s absolutely necessary to take pressure off border towns in Texas, that they themselves are not equipped to handle.
ABBOTT: The rationale for the busing began when I was talking to local officials, whether it be in Eagle Pass or Del Rio or other small communities on the border. And they were saying that the high-volume number of migrants being dropped off by the Biden administration was unsustainable. They had zero ability to deal with it.
As opposed to them being cities of the population of 8 million people, they were communities of sometimes 8,000 or 18,000 people. And they themselves were saying, listen, we’re going to have to find some relief valve here. And move people to some other city by buses and we said we as a state will take over that operation.
And thus began the busing process.
CHAKRABBARTI: That’s Texas Governor Greg Abbott there. And by the way, I want to note that this month, Illinois Representative Jonathan Jackson sent a letter to the Attorney General, to Merrick Garland, calling for a federal investigation into Texas busing migrants north. Last October, the Attorney General in Washington, D. C. opened another investigation, and also this summer, Los Angeles, the city council there, voted on two motions to investigate Governor Abbott as well.
Cata Truss. We’ve got a minute until our next break, but you heard what the governor said there, that why try to contain the problem to communities of 8,000 when maybe American communities of 8 million, as he said, could do a better job in handling the influx.
What do you think?
TRUSS: I think that Governor Abbott, what I really think about him, I can’t express on the air in public, but and so I’m going to leave that right there. I think that is full of crap, but I do feel that he is right. He is right when he says that we are not dealing with this border crisis, we’re just not dealing with it.
And one of the things that you said, you asked about the money, and about city council approving the budget. And I’m glad that Alderman Moore did vote against it, but we’re talking about investigating things. I would really love for us to investigate Favorite Healthcare Staffing, who has billed the city 17,000 per month for housekeepers, one housekeeper, 24,000 a month for security officers.
Our police don’t need to make this kind of money. And then 64,000 a month for nurses.
Today we’re talking about the migrant crisis in America’s northern cities, specifically looking at all that has been happening in Chicago, Illinois. I’m joined today by Alderman David Moore, represents the 17th Ward in Chicago, and Cata Truss is with us as well.
She’s a Chicago resident in the city’s Austin neighborhood and is a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to stop the use of a essential community center. Or stop it from being turned into a migrant shelter. And once again, I just want to remind folks that we did reach out to Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office multiple times for comment or interview.
They never responded to any of our requests. Now, I do want to say that obviously this has been a major issue not just in the city, but across the state of Illinois. So Governor J.B. Pritzker has often said that he sees the problem as a federal one and that the Biden administration needs to do more to solve it.
He was on CBS’s Face the Nation a little earlier this month talking about his request for a centralized office within the Biden administration to deal with migration.
PRITZKER: There are so many departments that are responsible for helping to care for these asylum seekers, as well as managing them as they cross the border.
I hope that they will put one office together. I know the White House right now is coordinating it, but they need one office, and in my opinion, one person at the head of that office, that we can call, that we can work with. Because look, we’re providing shelter as best we can and providing for the needs of these folks arriving in Chicago.
And as I say, we’re a welcoming state and we understand the humanitarian crisis that we’re addressing. But we can’t address this all by ourselves and we need help from the White House.
CHAKRABARTI: That’s Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, now we did contact the White House for comment and the White House spokesperson sent a comment to us saying, quote, “Without congressional action this administration has been working to build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system. We’ve led the largest expansion of lawful pathways for immigration in decades while putting in place policies to process individuals in a fair and fast manner.” End quote.
That’s from a White House spokesperson.
Here’s another thing that Governor Pritzker said. It was specifically about why he thinks Texas Governor Greg Abbott started the busing program, sending migrants to northern cities.
PRITZKER: No doubt that is what Governor Abbott hopes, is that it will cause chaos in the places where he’s sending asylum seekers.
And I think that the more that people feed into that at the local level, the more likely it is that he will increase the number of buses, and you’re seeing that now.
CHAKRABARTI: Cata Truss. This has had a major impact. The crisis in Austin, in the neighborhood you live in specifically, it’s had a major impact on how you see Mayor Johnson and the Democratic Party as well.
Can you just tell me a little bit more about that?
TRUSS: The fact of the matter is that we like to say that this is a democracy and the Democratic Party prides themselves on being the party of democracy. But when you neglect to listen to the people, when you neglect to hear what the people in this democracy that you are so proud of, are saying, because isn’t that the basis of democracy?
It’s the voice of the people. Our voices are not being heard. At the top of the hour, you mentioned that you reached out to Mayor Johnson’s office, and you didn’t get a response. We’re the constituents of Chicago and we’ve reached out to the mayor’s office as well. And we have not gotten a response either.
As a matter of fact, I have reached out to every single elected official that represents this community and not one has returned a phone call, set up a meeting after having one requested, not one. And so when you talk about Democrat, when you mention the word Democrat to me, I just lose my mind.
And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what the rest of Chicago is doing, but I’m done with the Democratic Party. I am officially done. I don’t know if that means that I’ll be stepping over to Republicans, or if I’ll be looking for more independent candidates, but what it does mean is two things. I will not be voting based on color.
I will be voting based on substance. I will be voting based on what the person stands for. I will be voting based on people who represent my interest. Right now, that is not the Democratic Party. And with the Democratic Convention coming here in June, I’m telling you, these people better get their acts together because I am not the only Black person in Chicago who feels this way, and the Democrats better pay attention, because all it takes is 10% of the Black vote to switch.
And they’ve lost everything. So they better pay attention. Because I’m just one person. But I’m sure I’m not the only one.
CHAKRABARTI: Cata Truss, a resident in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She’s also a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to stop the city of Chicago from turning the Amundsen Community Center into housing for migrants.
Ms. Truss, thank you so much for joining us today.
TRUSS: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
CHAKRABARTI: Alderman Moore, I’ve just got one more question for you, given what Ms. Truss just said. Do you see this migrant crisis as sowing some very, some perhaps unprecedented divisions amongst Chicago Democrats that might end up harming the party, creating divisions, political divisions that will be difficult to overcome?
MOORE: It was happening before that, and this is going to help push it over. This is, you asked when I was running for Secretary of State and as I was talking to more and more young people, they’re disenfranchised from voting because of a lot of the democratic policies or non-policies for helping our youth, helping our unemployed for many years. And so they’re leaning towards independence, and I don’t blame them.
They should. And to the point, with Cata Truss, and I tell everybody in politics, there’s no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interest. And she’s right. People better begin to vote their interests and whether that’s independent or whoever, if you’re going to stand with people because the Democratic Party has taken especially the Black vote and the Black communities for granted. I see it in unions. I see it. That’s why we’re constantly fighting for everything. We keep putting these people in but you’re still not giving them agenda. Stop putting people in office and don’t give them an agenda to live by.
And so I encourage my residents to do it. Every time in the 17th ward, I was at a meeting just the other night. I have, it was something that I wanted to support, but my residents said, “We don’t want it.” Guess who I’m standing with? My residents, because it’s their interest that matters.
And so unless it’s something that affects my moral compass or me. I cannot sleep at night because I’m making a bad moral decision. I’m going to always side with my residents. And so that’s what these Democrats have not been doing. And so she’s not off base, but it hasn’t, it was happening long before the migrant crisis. And this is going to push more people over as well, according to what Cata is saying, and I agree with her.
CHAKRABARTI: Alderman David Moore represents the 17th Ward on Chicago’s South Side. Alderman, thank you so much for joining us.
MOORE: You’re welcome. Thank you.
CHAKRABARTI: All right. Chicago obviously is experiencing a lot right now, but it’s just one example of tumult that’s happening across northern cities that are receiving migrants from southern states.
This is a national issue, clearly. Just yesterday, minutes after his election as Speaker of the House, Republican Representative Mike Johnson grabbed the gavel and almost instantly talked about immigration.
JOHNSON: We have a catastrophe at our southern border. The Senate and the White House can no longer ignore the problem.
From Texas to New York, wave after wave of illegal migrants are stressing our communities to their breaking points. We know that our streets are being flooded with fentanyl, and all of our communities, children and even adults are dying from it. The status quo is unacceptable. Inaction is unacceptable.
And we must come together and address the broken border. We have to do it.
CHAKRABARTI: Newly elected Speaker of the House Republican Representative Mike Johnson. Let’s hear just briefly from a couple of other states, led by, states and cities led by Democrats, Massachusetts being one of them, the state shelter system in Massachusetts is reaching its capacity.
And last week, Governor Maura Healey said that fairly soon, Massachusetts will no longer be able to guarantee a place to stay for new arrivals. That’s despite a state law that gives a right to shelter for families with children and pregnant women who no longer have any other access to housing.
HEALEY: Our shelter system cannot expand indefinitely. This level of demand is not sustainable. This is a federal problem that demands a federal solution. Families are coming in through the federal system, and the federal government must step up to support them.
CHAKRABARTI: Massachusetts Governor Democrat Maura Healey, over in New York City. More than 130,000 migrants have arrived there since the spring of last year, and here’s what Mayor Eric Adams said about the issue just last month.
ADAMS: Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.
CHAKRABARTI: All right, that’s New York Mayor Eric Adams. Joining us now is Jack Beatty. He’s On Point’s news analyst and of course host of our new weekly JackPod, but he’s joining us today on the program.
Jack, welcome back to you.
JACK BEATTY: Hello, Meghna.
CHAKRABARTI: Okay, Jack, so we just heard some very strong language, not just from residents and representatives in Chicago, Mayor Adams saying this is going to destroy New York City. On the one hand, it seems like this could be the kind of forceful language that state and local leaders use when they’re trying to get the federal government’s attention.
Perhaps it’ll take a little bit more than a migrant crisis to destroy New York. But on the other hand, do you see this as being potentially a make-or-break issue for the Biden administration?
BEATTY: It’s a very serious issue politically. It’s one of those ideal issues for Republicans. It divides Democrats and it unites Republicans.
That’s what you want in politics. An issue that will bring your people together and divide the other guys. And we just have heard the divisions, the feeling Ms. Truss was expressing of being neglected, of being ignored, of not being heard, of being supplanted, if you will, even being replaced.
And that is in the lexicon of the Trumpist appeal. “They’re coming. They’re taking your place. The government is open borders. Be afraid of fentanyl. Be afraid of crime.” That is ideal circumstances for a Trump reelection.
CHAKRABARTI: Okay. So let’s just give voice to the Biden administration’s response to all of this because, of course, they did send us a statement back, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, Jack, and here’s what they said.
The state and local leaders may be kicking the can over to the Biden administration, but the White House says, quote, “President Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform since his first day in office.” And then they go on to say “House Republicans continue to block the reform the immigration system needs.
And earlier this year, they voted to eliminate 2,000 customs and border protection agents,” end quote. Ultimately, Jack, the buck has to stop somewhere.
BEATTY: It does. And I think we have seen, Republicans do not want a solution to this crisis. This is now an asylum crisis, by the way. The asylum system that was designed right around the late ’70s, 1980 was supposed to be, people weren’t supposed to come on a case-by-case basis.
It was about individuals. It is now, the asylum system is now the channel for mass migration and we’re not, the bureaucracy isn’t set up to handle it. The government has been overwhelmed in handling it. And the Republicans don’t, they want the issue. They don’t want a solution. They torpedoed immigration reform under President Obama, because they their right wing said, no, the talk show host people said, no. They want the issue because the issue is poison for Democrats.
And so there’s a stalemate in terms of reforming the asylum system and working out some way in which people from countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua and Cuba, who can’t be sent back because we have no relations with those countries, they’re coming and just staying in our cities and what’s to be done with them?
CHAKRABARTI: Okay. I want to just, I’m going to come back to the responsibility that’s held by the President of the United States here in just a moment, but I do want to note when you’re talking about the issue, Jack, how that issue is being discussed amongst the right wing of the Republican Party, which now essentially is most of the party, specifically what former President Donald Trump has been saying.
In an interview last month for the right-wing news news site, The National Pulse, he basically used language that echoed chilling language that was once used in Nazi Germany.
TRUMP: Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It’s poisoning the blood of our country.
CHAKRABARTI: And by the way, that poisoning of the blood echoes language that none other than Adolf Hitler used when he lamented the, quote, “contamination of the blood” in Mein Kampf.
Jack, this is where we are with immigration and migration and asylum seeking. That, in a sense, is it not possible that the Biden administration has allowed itself to be captured so much by its fear of the extremism of the Trump camp, that even in appointing the vice president as being in charge of dealing with border issues, they’ve been afraid to do as much as they possibly could, because then it might give credence to any of the actions that were taken in the Trump administration regarding migration.
BEATTY: Oh, I think you’re absolutely right. And each time that they have come close to Trump like policies, Remain in Mexico, that was Trump’s policy. And now Biden has a new policy, people say, and then there’s, in other words, every time they’ve come close to anything like a Trumpist policy the immigrant rights groups and the progressive groups have said, “No, you can’t do that,” when the issue came about sending back Haitians, the Congressional Black Caucus screamed, “You can’t do that. You’re handling, you’re whipping these people.”
Remember those terrible scenes at the border? So the Democrats are caught between their progressive constituency, which doesn’t want a crackdown and the Republican right, which wants the issue, which wants the issue that divides Democrats and unites Republicans.
CHAKRABARTI: That’s leading to a kind of policy paralysis, which is driving this crisis to no end in sight, as we heard someone else earlier in the show say.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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