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Chicago shelters will start evicting migrants after a 60-day rule goes into effect


Leaders in Chicago once promised to welcome migrants seeking asylum. Now they're reversing course.


Thirty-seven thousand asylum-seekers have journeyed to the shores of Lake Michigan over the last two years. Along with several other cities in the U.S., Chicago says its shelters have reached capacity. So starting Saturday, the city will start evicting some migrants.

FADEL: Joining me now is NPR's immigration correspondent, Jasmine Garsd. Good morning.


FADEL: So, Jasmine, why is this starting now?

GARSD: Well, you know, last fall, New York City told migrants they could stay for 30 to 60 days at shelters. And around that time, Chicago kind of positioned itself as a more welcoming city. Here's Mayor Brandon Johnson at a press conference five months ago.


BRANDON JOHNSON: Policies that are impacting population shifts around the globe is affecting us all. These are asylum-seekers. These are not illegal people.

GARSD: But this has already cost Chicago nearly $160 million. And the city says it can't handle it. So it enacted a similar policy to New York, a 60-day eviction rule. And that goes into effect Saturday. As many as 5,600 people could be told to leave.

FADEL: So quite a reversal there for the city. And it has to be a polarizing issue for people in Chicago. What's the response been like?

GARSD: Well, the decision has been divisive. Many in local governments say despite its best intentions, months of sheltering people have worn Chicago's budget and patience thin. But there's a lot of opposition, too. Alderman Andre Vazquez, chair of the city's Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says the city can do better.

ANDRE VASQUEZ: So not only is it not the right way to go when we're thinking about the dignity everybody deserves in this situation and we're talking about families with children in school. It also isn't being responsible at the taxpayer dollar because it's going to lead to more costs down the line.

GARSD: He predicts it will lead to increased homelessness, more visits to the ER and cost Chicago more.

FADEL: So you mentioned that New York City enacted a similar policy last year. Has that been working?

GARSD: New York officials say as of December of last year, over 22,000 people were told it was time to leave the shelter. And about a quarter were able to stay in the system. But City Hall doesn't know a lot about what happens to people when they leave the shelters. I've been talking to migrants who are now sleeping in parks, streets, under bridges. These people are allowed to stay in the country for now, but they can't work legally.

FADEL: I mean, you can stay, but you can't work to support yourself?

GARSD: That's exactly right. When a migrant seeks asylum, the law says they can't get a work permit until five months after applying for that asylum. And mayors have brought this up to the White House and Congress as something that could alleviate the financial stress of caring for people.

FADEL: Yeah, but we've seen even immigration proposals with bipartisan support seem to go nowhere in Washington. So is there any sign that conditions on the ground in these cities might change?

GARSD: Not really. This all started two years ago with the surge of migrants at the border. Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott started busing migrants to cities like New York, Chicago, Denver. And Abbott has pledged to continue sending migrants north, he says as a way to get the Biden administration to ramp up border enforcement. So this is going to continue.

FADEL: NPR's immigration correspondent, Jasmine Garsd, thank you so much.

GARSD: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.