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Chicago mayor accused of prioritizing migrants over Black community as vote to recall sanctuary status stalled

A Chicago native charged that Mayor Brandon Johnson is prioritizing migrants over the Black community as city council stalls a sanctuary status referendum.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was accused of prioritizing tens of thousands of migrants from the southern border over the Black community and homeless veterans on Thursday, during a special council meeting meant to consider whether residents would be asked to vote on a referendum on Illinois' largest city's sanctuary status.

The Chicago City Council special meeting began with time for public comment, but councilors ultimately voted to adjourn afterward without considering a resolution "authorizing a referendum question to be submitted to the voters of City of Chicago whether Chicago should continue to keep its designation as a Sanctuary City," until it moves out of committee. 

Lauren Lawrence, a woman who described herself as a Chicago native, born and raised in the city, said she witnessed a "transition as if a lot of people are not important here." 

"I'm not for the sanctuary city, and the reason why I'm not for the sanctuary city is because people have waited years to come in here legally," she said. "Not just transported on these buses, dropped off in our neighborhood, raise of crime, almost got hit several times just making it down here today. And this is ludicrous. There should not be two sets of laws."


"Also, the West Side and the South Side Black communities have been earmarked for having funds – never seen it. We're still waiting those funds to come into those communities," she continued, taking aim at the new mayor, who just assumed office in May, replacing former Mayor Lori Lighfoot. 

"Brandon Johnson, many people stood behind you. They feel let down, because the day you came into office, which I believe was May 15, you already had signed an executive order," Lawrence said Thursday, referencing Johnson's Day One order establishing a "deputy mayor for immigrant, migrant and refugee rights." 

The May 15 order instructs all city department heads to take direction from the new deputy mayor "to ensure the efficacy of Chicago’s status as a welcoming and sanctuary city."

"Now, whether it came from Gov.r Pritzker or whomever that directed you on this, is it fair to these communities that have been waiting for years? You said you on the West side, but you should know what's going on over there as well," Lawrence said. "When are you going to have our neighborhoods cleaned up? And when are we going to get the rights that we deserve?"

"I'm not against anyone coming in here legally. I want to say that clearly. But for those who have not, they don't top us. They don't go before us. We're not last in line," she said. 

Lawrence complained that thousands of dollars were going to those who entered the country illegally, ahead of lawful Chicagoans, including veterans and the homeless.

"They need to be taken care of. They need to stop being neglected. Because if we don't have a voice here, we will have a voice out there," she said.

The council's decision to adjourn without considering the sanctuary status referendum vote drew condemnation from Alderman Anthony Beale, who demanded to know whether Johnson and councilors were afraid that city voters would tell them "the truth" about funding decisions regarding the migrant influx. 

"Let me just say that I figured you all had something up your sleeve," Beale, who represents Chicago’s Ninth Ward, told Johnson and fellow councilors. "What are you scared of? To let the people have a voice? What are you scared of? The truth? Are we scared of the truth here? Are we afraid that the people are going to tell us that we are spending money frivolously in this body? Are we afraid that the people are going to tell us that we are headed in the wrong direction? Are we afraid that the people are going to finally stand up and speak in the city of Chicago, that they're saying that this ship is headed in the wrong direction? Why are we afraid to let the people speak?" 


"But we are afraid of the truth. Crime is running rampant. Our schools are in trouble. We're spending hundreds, millions of dollars on people that don't even pay taxes and live in the city," Beale continued. "Now I'm all for taking care of people. I get it. I am sympathetic as well. However, I'm more sympathetic for the people in my community that have been paying taxes their entire life, can't get a furnace, can't get a roof, can't get a hot water heater, can't get a back porch. And my seniors are still starving for resources." 

Beale charged: "There's no conscionable way we should be voting on hundreds of millions of dollars to just, you know, go to Brighton Park, only to have the whole thing blown up." 

Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration scrapped plans for a temporary winter camp for migrants at Brighton Park in Chicago, citing the risk of contaminants at the former industrial site. With the coldest weather looming – and despite a partnership with religious leaders to provide temporary housing – hundreds of migrants were still awaiting placement at airports and police stations, and some are still camped on sidewalks outside precinct buildings.

As of Thursday morning, more than 25,000 people have arrived in Chicago from the southern border since August 2022, according to data compiled by the City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). The city's dashboard claims 25,700 people have come via "Texas buses," as Democrats have blasted Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's migrant busing operation transporting migrants to sanctuary jurisdictions. 

But the city dashboard only has data for migrants arriving to Chicago "via airplane" as of June 2023, showing 4,252 individuals have arrived by plane to Chicago seeking asylum since then. Besides Abbott, the federal government also relocates migrants from the border across the country.

"We need to wake up. That's all we're trying to do, y'all. We're trying to wake up," Beale said. "Our people are demanding change. They're demanding resources, and they're demanding that we do something different in this body."

Beale concluded: "I hope you all sleep good tonight knowing that you all continue to turn your back on the people that are paying taxes in this city. So if that's how you feel. God bless you. And I wish you a very good night's sleep. Thank you." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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