By Brenda Ordoñez
Since the summer of 2022, Chicago has welcomed over 9,000 migrants from the southern border. Many of these migrants traveled to the United States from Latin American countries, fleeing economic and humanitarian crises. Chicago officials are searching for additional shelters to continue housing migrants after Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that swiftly expelled migrants at the border, expired on May 11. I traveled to the border in El Paso, Texas, just a few weeks after Title 42 expired, finding a scene many people did not expect.
HELLO AND WELCOME TO MEDILL NEWSMAKERS. I’M BRENDA ORDOÑEZ. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. WE BEGIN TODAY WITH THE MIGRANT CRISIS HERE IN CHICAGO. AS OF MID-MAY, CITY OFFICIALS WERE STILL SEARCHING FOR ADDITIONAL SPACES TO TURN INTO SHELTERS AND RESPITE CENTERS AS MIGRANTS CONTINUE TO ARRIVE AND CURRENT SHELTERS REACH CAPACITY.
Leslie Perkins: What we’re doing is trying to get people connected to shelter, legal aid assistance and other resources as they arrive. We are really overburdened, and this situation has really become untenable. So, what we’re seeing now is that we don’t have enough space for migrants to stay at.
CITY OFFICIALS LOOKED AT HIGH SCHOOLS, COLLEGES AND FIELD HOUSES AS POSSIBLE SHELTERS. THIS WAS SHORTLY AFTER POLICE DEPARTMENTS ACROSS THE CITY BEGAN HOUSING MIGRANTS.
Perkins: Getting them into a more suitable setting where they can receive the medical attention, where they can receive those resources and where they have a bed and, you know, a shower and stuff like that is really going to be the humane way to treat the migrants while also freeing up the police to focus on what their job really is, which is, you know, fighting crime.
SINCE 1985 CHICAGO HAS BEEN DECLARED A SANCTUARY CITY. THIS DECLARATION HAS INSPIRED OVER NINE-THOUSAND 9,000 MIGRANTS TO RAPIDLY FLOCK TO CHICAGO SINCE AUGUST OF 2022. HOWEVER, CHICAGO OFFICIALS SAY THE NUMBER OF MIGRANTS HAS DROPPED AFTER THE EXPIRATION OF TITLE 42 ON MAY 11.
TITLE 42 WAS FIRST PUT IN PLACE BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION AT THE START OF THE PANDEMIC AND ALLOWED FOR THE SWIFT EXPULSION OF MIGRANTS AT THE SOUTHERN BORDER. IN THE WEEKS LEADING UP TO ITS EXPIRATION, CONCERN GREW THAT A SURGE OF MIGRANTS CROSSING THE BODER WAS IMMINENT. BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED. I TRAVELED TO EL PASO, TEXAS, A FEW WEEKS AFTER TITLE 42 EXPIRED TO SEE HOW THE END OF THIS PANDEMIC-ERA RULE WAS IMPACTING THE MIGRANT CRISIS AT THE BORDER. THIS IS WHAT I FOUND.
[NATURAL SOUND FROM THE BORDER IN EL PASO, TEXAS]
THE BORDER SEPARATING CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO, AND EL PASO, TEXAS, IS QUIET AS FEWER MIGRANTS ARE CROSSING. WHILE THE EXACT REASON FOR THE DROP REMAINS UNCLEAR, BORDER PATROL OFFICIALS SAY THE RECENT ENFORCEMENT OF A LONG-STANDING IMMIGRATION LAW MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT.
Alan Lizarraga: Title 8 has a much harsher policy that effectively criminalizes migrants.
UNDER TITLE 8, MIGRANTS WHO GET DEPORTED ARE BANNED FROM ENTERING THE UNITED STATES FOR AT LEAST FIVE YEARS. TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF DEPORTATION, MIGRANTS WANTING TO CROSS THE BORDER ARE ENCOURAGED TO USE THE CBP ONE APP TO FILE THEIR ASYLUM CLAIM AND SECURE AN APPOINTMENT TO ENTER THE U.S. LAWFULLY. HOWEVER, CONCERNS OVER THE APP’S EFFICIENCY ARE CIRCULATING.
Lizarraga: So, what the Biden administration I think was doing, was trying to do, to put a step forward, but I don’t think they were listening to the people on the ground. The app glitches. The app sometimes doesn’t facially recognize their pictures. The app sometimes doesn’t open. I believe there were some waiting periods too for the app. To think migrants, have access to, you know, internet or to a cellphone is already far off. A lot of these people barely have the necessary resources to carry on in their daily lives and feed their families.
THESE ISSUES HAVE RESULTED IN MANY MIGRANTS, INCLUDING 30-YEAR-OLD COLOMBIAN MIGRANT ROYMAN FARIA, TO BYPASS THE APP ALTOGETHER.
Royman Faria: I turned myself in to immigration on May 8th at 11:40 a.m. Thank God I got the opportunity to move forward with my asylum case.
DURING THAT INITAL IMMIGRATION SCREENING, FARIA WAS ABLE TO CHOOSE THE CITY IN WHICH HE WANTED TO CONTINUE HIS PROCESS IN.
Faria: Since I was in Colombia, I always played basketball. My dream team has always been the Chicago Bulls. So, when people ask me where I’m going, I say, “I’m going to Chicago Bulls.” And they tell me it’s not Chicago Bulls, that it’s Chicago, but, well, that’s why I chose that destination. I like Chicago even though it’s so cold. I still want to get to know Chicago.
ONCE IN CHICAGO, FARIA WILL PLEAD HIS ASYLUM CASE IN FRONT OF A JUDGE. IF HIS CASE IS DENIED,
FARIA WILL BE DEPORTED BACK TO COLOMBIA, THWARTING ALL HIS DREAMS.
Faria: I’m searching for a better future, good connections who can help me realize my dream. I love music. I sing salsa. I love salsa.
AND MAKING THE TREACHEROUS JOURNEY TO THE U.S. ALL FOR NOTHING.
Faria: There are people who lost everything for this journey. They left everything for a life in the U.S.
FARIA REMAINS ON THE STREETS OF EL PASO, SLEEPING ON THE PAVEMENT JUST OUTSIDE OF SACRED HEART CHURCH WHILE HE EARNS ENOUGH MONEY TO AFFORD HIS TRAVEL FARE TO CHICAGO. HERE HE IS JOINED BY TWIN SISTERS JOSI-ANILAMA AND JOSI-MARLAMA, WHO SPEND THEIR DAYS RECREATING TIKTOK DANCES ON THE STREETS OF EL PASO WHILE THEY WAIT FOR A RESOLUTION. FARIA MET THESE GIRLS ON THE JOURNEY TO THE
Faria: They’ve been a great support. With my broken arm, they have helped me with medication or with getting food. I am alone. I don’t have anyone here in the United States. I came alone so when I found them, they became my family.
FARIA HOPES TO EARN ENOUGH MONEY IN THE COMING WEEKS SO THAT HE CAN AFFORD HIS FARE TO CHICAGO. HE SAYS HE WILL DEEPLY MISS THESE GIRLS WHEN THE TIME COMES FOR HIM TO LEAVE.
[Faria sings favorite song in Spanish.]
ACCORDING TO A REPORT CONDUCTED BY SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, AS OF NOVEMBER OF 2022 THERE WERE NEARLY 1 MILLION ASYLUM CASES PENDING IN THE U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT SYSTEM. FOR MEDILL NEWSMAKERS, I’M BRENDA ORDOÑEZ. THANKS FOR WATCHING.
Brenda Ordoñez is a graduate student in the video & broadcast specialization. Connect with her on LinkedIn.