Chicago has become so unpleasant that migrants are fleeing back to Venezuela after being dumped in shelters and denied better-paying jobs.
As of August last year, 20,700 migrants have arrived in Chicago since it opened its status as a “sanctuary city” — a Democratic-run city where Texas Governor Abbott could bring asylum seekers.
Now, Illinois’ harsh winters, lack of migrant infrastructure and ambivalent support from locals have caused many people who made the grueling U.S.-Mexico border journey to essentially turn around and return home.
Venezuelan-born Michael Castejon, 39, and his family have been sleeping on the floors of police stations and shelters after he couldn’t pay the rent in Chicago because his work permit took so long to arrive.
The family rented an apartment through a city voucher program, which provides up to $15,000 for up to six months of rental assistance, but once that ran out they had to give up their housing.
The father found a job in construction and was paid in cash, but that wasn’t enough to support his family since they arrived in June.
Venezuelan-born Michael Castejon, 39, (pictured in red jacket) and his family have been sleeping on the floors of police stations and shelters after he couldn’t pay the rent – because it took so long for his work permit to arrive
As of last August, 20,700 migrants have arrived in Chicago since it opened its status as a “sanctuary city” — a Democratic-run city where Texas Governor Abbott could bring asylum seekers.
After five months of a hard life with no end in sight, the family decided to pack their belongings and return to South America, realizing that “there is nothing for us here.”
Castejon said the failed journey to settle in the US had not been worth it, despite the extreme poverty and authoritarian regime under which they lived in Venezuela.
After months of begging for money and crossing borders, the dreams he had heard about from other migrants had not come true for him, he revealed.
Michael Castejon, 39, told the Chicago Tribune: ‘The American Dream no longer exists. There is nothing for us here.
‘We didn’t know it would be so difficult. I thought the process went faster,” he said of the work permit situation in Chicago.
‘How many more months will it take to live on the streets? No not anymore. It’s better that I leave. At least I have my mother at home.
‘We just want to be home. If we’re going to sleep on the street here, we’d rather sleep on the street there.’
Castejon’s stepdaughter Andrea Carolina Sevilla couldn’t find a school to enroll in when they arrived in the U.S., even though one of the reasons they left their native country was to give her a better education.
As winter approaches, the mayor has opened camps for migrants, some of which are placed in black and Hispanic neighborhoods
Tens of thousands of migrants were sent to the sanctuary city by Texas Governor Abbott and non-governmental organizations in states including Colorado and New York.
He’s not the only migrant in Chicago who realizes the reality of asylum claims isn’t what they imagined. Chicago’s cold weather is approaching, and many migrants still sleeping on the streets are being forced to lie on wet, cold mattresses.
At least 40 people have left Chicago’s 1st District station in the past month to move home or elsewhere in the United States, with the help of Catholic Charities of Chicago.
According to the Tribune, migrants eat standing and have to rub their hands to stay warm due to the lack of facilities.
Brayan Lozano, head of the Police Station Response Team volunteer group, said, “Word about the situation in Chicago is starting to spread.”
Lozano said the city’s resources have been depleted and the resettlement program is now unable to cope with the pressure of the number of incoming migrants.
Another migrant, Jose Nauh, 22, was forced to sleep in a Chicago police station for two weeks before deciding to travel back to Texas. He had moved to the Windy City to see the hype firsthand, but quickly realized that life was no better.
Diana Vera, who moved to Chicago with her three children and daughter-in-law, has also decided to leave the city for better opportunities elsewhere. They had been living on the floor of the police station for a month.
Michael Castejon, 39, and his family while living in Venezuela
Castejon, along with many others, has decided to leave Chicago after realizing that this is not all it was cracked up to be
Last month, Johnson quietly signed a $29 million contract with a security company to build base camps for migrants
Most of the migrants arriving in Chicago in the past year have come from Texas, largely led by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
The Windy City is struggling with more than 11,000 migrants in shelters and 4,000 staying in police stations and O’Hare International Airport (photo)
As they boarded the bus to Detroit, Vera said, “We heard there are a lot of jobs there, even if you don’t have a permit.”
This comes at a fraught time for Chicago and its residents.
Angry protesters stormed a Chicago City Council meeting last week during a debate over whether the city should remain a haven for migrants.
The meeting was called after 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale — who oversees a district on the predominantly black South Side — proposed an advisory referendum that would ask voters during the March primary whether Chicago should retain its sanctuary city status .
Many residents expressed frustration over the millions of dollars the city spent on migrant shelters instead of poor 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.
More than 20,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since last year.
Although most are from Venezuela, they come from all over the world, including Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
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-governmental organizations in states such as Colorado and New York.
The majority are seeking asylum “because of U.S. foreign policy that has created unstable economic and political conditions that endanger their safety and force them to travel thousands of miles to safety,” according to the city of Chicago’s website.
It adds: “American cities have traditionally not had the infrastructure to resettle large numbers of immigrants and refugees. This is federal responsibility.”