Chicago officials lay out next steps for migrants

CHICAGO - City and state officials continue to collaborate in an effort to place new arrivals into shelter and to resettle those who are living in Chicago.

Over the last year and a half, more than 35,000 migrants have been welcomed to the city from the southern border.

On Tuesday morning, the heads of various departments involved in the migrant mission met at City Hall to streamline the process. The hearing was called by the Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

There, living conditions at migrant shelters and the need for work authorizations were a major focus of conversation.

Some migrants even attended the hearing to share their desire to get to work – and get to work fast.

"We are very grateful to Chicago, but we want you to hear from us that we need work permits," said a Venezuelan migrant named Nora.

To date, officials say only 1,031 new arrivals in Chicago have been granted work permits.

It’s a process they are trying to speed up.

"The goal of these clinics is to centralize the process. This is a process that takes upwards of nine months, we are trying to get it down to 30-60 days," one official said.

Conditions at the city’s 28 shelters and its landing zone on the Near West Side were also discussed at Tuesday’s hearing.

In the last several months, concerns have been raised over the health and safety of migrants following the death of a 5-year-old boy who fell ill while living at the shelter in Pilsen.

The city says it's streamlined how migrants can report concerns regarding facilities, security, staff, and more.

"Once the grievance is submitted, we have a staff grievance team out of the emergency operations center who reviews it, and the goal is to conduct an official review within three to seven days. The grievance team reaches out to the individual who reported the issue if they so wish. Again, this can be done anonymously, so sometimes that is not possible. They will gather information from witnesses, from the person, from staff, they will make a recommendation on a resolution to the shelter leadership, to the DFSS team and the resolution will be closed out," a city worker said.

Some migrants have reported that they are unhappy with the food they've been served at city shelters.

"The food is no good, and we don’t eat it. Not us, not the Ecuadorian people, not the Haitian people. It ends up in the trash," said Nora.

Meanwhile, at 26th Street and Pulaski Road in Little Village, it’s been three weeks since the first and only state-run shelter opened its doors.

There, new arrival Keiner Hernandez says things seem to be running smoothly.

He says he was interviewed by security when he arrived, his bags were checked, and his paperwork was reviewed. He says the process took about two hours. Then he was issued an ID card that identifies who he is.

"We are called in groups to the kitchen, based on the color on the back of our badge. We eat at an assigned time. The food has been good," said Hernandez.

The state is running this site with help from Catholic Charities and New Life Centers.

"The workers treat us well, they are very nice, they’ve invited us to go to church," said Hernandez.

Currently, there are about 175 migrants waiting for shelter placement – and most of them are at O’Hare until space opens.

That's where Hernandez tells FOX 32 Chicago that he waited for four days until he was placed at the Little Village shelter.

Along with his wife and three children, he has been given 60 days to find more permanent housing.