Migrant tents coming to Brighton Park
Ramirez plans to hear neighbors’ concerns
By Tim Hadac
Brighton Park buzzed with a swirl of emotions earlier this week, as details began to leak out about a Johnson Administration plan to house migrants in the community.
“Ain’t nobody want no tent city here,” said William Desparrois as he shot cellphone video of large Department of Water Management trucks and other heavy equipment transform a vacant block at 38th and California. “This is bullsh~t, people, 100% bullsh~t. Everybody needs to get out here and block these trucks.”
With thousands of migrants already in the city and thousands more possibly coming in the year ahead, Mayor Brandon Johnson and his team are said to be scrambling to find wards where aldermen will not oppose establishment of heated-tent encampments that each will house as many as 1,400 migrants.
Some of those aldermen may include political disciples of U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th), a Johnson ally. On the Southwest Side, those aldermen are Julia Ramirez (12th), Jeylú Gutiérrez (14th) and Michael Rodriguez (22nd).
Rodriguez has already spoken publicly and with pride about the migrant welcoming center at Piotrowski Park in the Little Village neighborhood. Recently, he told a group of Southwest Side business leaders that the migrant influx is good for Chicago and that he hopes more arrive.
The site at 38th and California is in the 12th Ward.
This week, Ramirez said she was cautiously gathering information from the mayor’s staff and signaled that she was undecided about whether to support the development, oppose it or remain neutral.
She has said that she wants to listen closely to what Brighton Park residents have to say about the development, especially those living closest to it.
Ramirez also has scheduled a public meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Kelly High School, 4136 S. California.
“As a person who has been directly impacted by violence, my community’s safety is my top priority,” Ramirez said earlier this week. “As a daughter of immigrants who came from Mexico and settled in Brighton Park over 50 years ago, I believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their immigration status. We must stay united as a community, not divided, and do our part to help needy families who are coming to this country in search of a better life.
“Should the mayor’s administration decide to move forward with this site, I’m going to ensure that we use this opportunity to advocate for the resources and improvements that Brighton Park deserves.”
Some in the community expressed agreement.
“When our parents crossed the border, they had family here supporting them,” said Teresa Mora. “We must do the same for our brothers from South America. Have some empathy.”
Others did not.
“This is ridiculous for you to allow this to happen in our community,” Virginia Contreras said, addressing Ramirez. “What, now that the black community spoke and put up a fight [against migrant encampments], they’re going to be put in our community? People voted for you to keep our community safe and growing, not to allow tents to be put up and allow crime to grow.”
Others picked up on that, noting that the privately-owned block at 38th and California is close to churches frequented by the vulnerable elderly, as well as public elementary schools.
“Call it what you want, but I call it an instant slum,” said Juanito Gonzales. “It’s going to be loaded with young men with no jobs and no money. Just wait ‘til these guys get desperate and starting robbing senior citizens or propositioning school girls.”
Others ridiculed the idea that the encampment at 38th and California will be temporary.
“Look what happened at Gage Park over at 55th and Western,” Olivia Rojas-Garcia said. “They flooded the place with migrants in July and said it would be just a few weeks. Now it’s October and they’re still there—and the community has lost space and Park District programs. There’s no such thing as temporary.”
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