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Chicago residents, officials clash over plans to house illegal immigrants at local college

An overhead view of 18th Street in Pilsen is seen on Oct. 15, 2020. Both Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson have said they intend to avoid property tax increases. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
May 25, 2023

A crowded meeting on the Northwest Side of Chicago turned contentious as residents and city officials clashed over plans to utilize Wilbur Wright College as a location for illegal immigrants during the school’s summer break.

The meeting at Wilbur Wright College garnered a large attendance of residents who were required to provide identification as proof of nearby residency. Numerous neighbors signed up to express their opinions, holding nothing back.

According to ABC7, one woman in attendance said, “We love people, but this is an absolute slap in the face to those who came here legally.”

Jesus Del Toro from the City of Chicago Office of New Americans discussed the historical immigration experiences in Chicago but was met with boos from the audience.

The college has become the latest focus for the city’s efforts to identify underutilized buildings where illegal immigrants, who are currently sleeping in police stations throughout Chicago, can be housed safely until more stable shelter options become available.

Sydney Hart, a professor at Wilbur Wright College, emphasized in an ABC7 report, “We have space. And we are a community college. We always talk about putting the community in community college.”

READ MORE: Pics: 743% spike in illegal immigration at US-Canada border sector

Alderman Nick Sposato, who represents the 38th Ward, indicated that up to 400 people could be accommodated at the college campus during the summer.

“It’s not right. It’s not right to them, and it’s not right to the police officers. So, right now, this is kind of a win-win. It’s a win to get them off the floors of the police stations, and it’s a win for the police officers to have them out of there,” stated Sposato, according to the Mirror.

This meeting represents the latest in a series of heated community meetings regarding the issue of migrants. Earlier this month, South Shore residents filed a lawsuit against the city to prevent migrants from being housed at the former South Shore High School.

The city reported that it has assessed numerous potential locations.

During Wednesday’s city council meeting, which marks Mayor Brandon Johnson’s first time presiding, funding of over $50 million is expected to be approved for addressing the migrant crisis. However, this allocation of funds is projected to last only until June 30.

More than 9,900 illegal immigrants have arrived in the Chicago area since August, according to CBS News. The new residents have stayed at 20 shelters. Some asylum seekers have also slept at local police stations.