Hundreds of unlawful migrants are being housed behind a black curtain at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as the city struggles to determine what to do next.
The number currently stands at more than 400, a significant increase from the 31 staying there in early August, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The airport is currently serving as an overflow shelter to buttress the 17 other facilities the city set up to harbor unlawful migrants.
Many of those being housed at the airport have cited concerns over a lack of bedding, inadequate food, and a lack of access to showers and healthcare.
“I’m grateful they gave us a roof over our heads, but six days without a bed and without a shower, that was inhumane,” said Onomir, a woman staying at the airport who declined to share her full name, speaking with the Chicago Sun-Times.
The accumulation of people at O’Hare follows Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to bus and fly unlawful migrants from Texas to self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities,” as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
“President Biden’s inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans — and Americans — at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” Abbott said. “To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C., and New York City as an additional drop-off location.”
Abbott has been relocating the unlawful migrants to raise awareness of the border security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has swamped Texas border towns. The governor has called the situation an “invasion,” as have dozens of counties in Texas that passed declarations to that effect.
Vianney Marzullo, a Police Station Response Team volunteer, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “O’Hare is just a holding place for the incoming flights, technically.”
She added that many unlawful migrants staying at the airport are staying longer than initially intended, with some spending up to two weeks there.
Rayberth, who had been at the airport for over four days, said the facility was flooded with people. She said some of them had been there for 10 days.
“No one likes to live here. It’s just a process that we have to wait for to be called and then we can leave. You are not going to be there for months, you are only going to be there for days while the city finds a place for you,” she told NewsNation.
In an attempt to manage the increasing number of unlawful migrants arriving in the city, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker sent a joint letter to the federal government asking for assistance in streamlining work authorization for asylum seekers.
Since August 2022, more than 13,000 unlawful migrants have arrived in Chicago, resulting in the city spending more than $250 million, according to the letter.
“As a result, our focus as city, state, and federal systems must pivot away from emergency responses that have already reached unsustainable levels towards policies that will enable individuals to live with dignity,” wrote Pritzker and Johnson.
“We must build a system that can safely and capably receive the growing number of new arrivals who seek shelter in our city and state; there is no path to success without significant new federal financial support and immigration policy changes,” they pleaded.