Chicago has become so unpleasant that migrants are fleeing back to Venezuela after being dumped in shelters and refused better paying jobs.
Since August last year, 20,700 migrants have arrived in Chicago from Texas. The Lone Star State’s Governor Greg Abbott sent migrants to Chicago and other Democrat-run cities because of their proud status as ‘sanctuary cities.’ They offer enhanced protection against detention or deportation for undocumented migrants.
Now, Illinois‘ harsh winters, lack of migrant infrastructure, and ambivalent support from locals has made many people, who undertook the harsh US-Mexico border journey, actually turn around and go back home.
The family were renting an apartment through a city voucher program, that gives up to $15,000 for up to six months of rental assistance – but once this had run out, they had to give up their living space.
The dad found a job in construction, and he was getting paid in cash, but it wasn’t enough to sustain his family since they arrived in June.
After five months of rough living with no end in sight, the family decided to pack up their belongings and return to South America, realizing that ‘there’s nothing here for us.’
Castejon said that the failed journey to settle in the US had not been worth it, despite the extreme poverty and an authoritarian regime they were living under in Venezuela.
After months of begging for money and crossing borders, the dreams that he had heard of from other migrants had failed to materialize for him, he revealed.
‘How many more months of living in the streets will it take? No, no more. It’s better that I leave. At least I have my mother back home.
‘We just want to be home. If we’re going to be sleeping in the streets here, we’d rather be sleeping in the streets over there.’
Castejon’s stepdaughter Andrea Carolina Sevilla could not find a school to be enrolled in when they arrived in the US, despite one of the reasons they left their native home was to give her a better education.
He is not the only migrant in Chicago who is realizing that the reality of asylum seeking is not what they had imagined. Chicago’s cold weather is creeping up – and many migrants still sleeping on the streets are forced to lay on wet, cold mattresses.
The city is also notorious for violent crime, with migrants forced to sleep in public more vulnerable to attack than most.
At least 40 people in the last month have left Chicago’s 1st District station to either move back home or elsewhere in the States, with the help of Catholic Charities of Chicago.
According to the Tribune, migrants eat standing up and have to rub their hands together to keep warm because of the lack of facilities.
Lozano said that the city’s resources have been exhausted, and the resettlement program now cannot take the strain of the number of migrants flooding in.
Another migrant, Jose Nauh, 22, was forced to sleep in a police station in Chicago for two weeks before deciding to travel back to Texas. He’d moved to the windy city to see the hype for himself – but soon realized life was not better.
Diana Vera, who moved to Chicago with her three children and daughter-in law, have also decided to quit the city for better opportunities elsewhere. They had been living on the floor in the police station for a month.
Boarding a bus to Detroit, Vera said: ‘We heard that there are a lot of jobs over there even if you don’t have a permit.’
This comes at a fraught time for Chicago and its residents.
Furious protesters stormed a Chicago City Council meeting last week during a debate about whether the city should remain a sanctuary for migrants.
The meeting was called after 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale – who oversees a district in the predominantly-Black South Side – proposed an advisory referendum that would ask voters during the March primary if Chicago should keep its sanctuary city status.
Many residents expressed frustration about the millions of dollars the city was spending on migrant shelters instead of Chicago’s most impoverished communities.
As of September, there were about 20 active migrant shelters in the city. Seven were located on the historically underserved South and West sides.
The city has allocated $4 million to help migrants find temporary housing, and the state has contributed another $38 million.
Since August 2022, Chicago has opened its doors to tens of thousands of migrants sent by Texas Governor Abbott and non-government organizations in states such as Colorado and New York.
The majority are seeking asylum ‘due to US foreign policy that has created unstable economic and political conditions compromising their safety and forcing them to travel thousands of miles to safety,’ the City of Chicago website reads.
It adds: ‘U.S. cities have not traditionally had the infrastructure to resettle high numbers of immigrants and refugees. This is federal responsibility.’
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