Welcome to the Migration Issue

The politicization of the term “migration” has obscured just how common, and how human it is to move. Yes, a person who walked from Venezuela to the US-Mexico border is, perhaps most obviously, a migrant. But so are the half a million foreign-born Chicagoans who left their birth country, pulled by a dream or pushed by danger. So too were the estimated six million Black Americans who over the 20th century rode buses and trains up north and out west to escape the chokehold of the Jim Crow South. 

The human right to choose where we live is foundational, yet frequently undermined by forces like militarized borders, razor-wire barriers, tracking devices, and detention centers, which demonstrate an utter disregard for the humanity of people seeking refuge. In this issue you will read about how Southern politicians bussed Black migrants to Northern cities for political points in the 1960s, a local radio DJ who used his radio show to spark the largest immigrant march in Chicago’s history, the role that faith has played for recent arrivals in Chicago, and more. We compiled the stories you see in this Migration Issue to capture the vast range of spiritual, physical, political, and social experiences that stem from the human acts of moving in today’s world.

–Alma Campos, senior editor; Wendy Wei, immigration editor

City Council tensions

This month, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) resigned as Mayor Brandon Johnson’s City Council floor leader and announced he would also give up his chairmanship of the powerful Zoning Committee. The blowback came from his attempts to stave off a special council meeting where Alds. Anthony Beale (9th) and Raymond Lopez (15th) tried to get a nonbinding referendum on March’s ballot about whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city—first established in 1985 by Mayor Harold Washington. In his efforts to prevent a quorum, Ramirez-Rosa attempted to physically block Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) from entering the council chambers and allegedly told other alderpersons their projects could get held up in Zoning if they attended. Days later, Ramirez-Rosa narrowly avoided formal censure by his colleagues. The vote ended in a tie—Mitts notably voted against censure—which Johnson broke by voting no. The dramatic fall of one of the mayor’s key allies, and the political skulduggery that led to it, comes amid heightened Black-brown tensions stemming from the influx of Venezuelan asylum seekers to Chicago. It’s a political moment that right-wing actors are only too happy to exploit, whether in the Texas governor’s mansion or City Council. Anti-immigrant sentiment has long been a weapon of division. The best response Chicago can have is not more xenophobia, political infighting, or bullying—but cooperation, mutual respect, and solidarity.  

115th and Halsted migrant site approved, but migration numbers decreasing

After a delayed vote, City Council approved a new winterized migrant camp at 115th and Halsted, a former Jewel’s grocery store and parking lot that was donated for this purpose. The site was already planned for a future mixed-use project with affordable housing called Morgan Park Commons, as Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st Ward) pointed out. The ordinance was then amended to indicate that the site would be used to house migrants “not beyond Nov. 21, 2024”. With another base camp already underway in Brighton Park, in addition to new shelters and resettlement efforts, there’s a possibility that the city may not have a need for the 115th and Halsted site. Recent data from Chicago’s Office for Emergency Management and Communications show a decrease in migrants being bussed to Chicago. In October, the city reported seventy-one buses arriving in an eight-day span, while in the last week, sixteen buses have arrived.

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