City Council members, be honest when talking about migrants

A child gets zipped up in a winter coat outside Chicago’s designated landing zone for new migrant arrivals in the West Loop, Jan. 8.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When Donald Trump made campaign stops in Wisconsin and Michigan earlier this month, he told his supporters that crime in Venezuela plummeted 67% because the country’s lawbreakers were being sent to the U.S.

Homicides and overall violent crime have declined in the South American nation, but nowhere near as drastically as the former president suggested. And where’s the proof for his alarmist claims that prisons and mental institutions are being emptied out so those folks can be sent to America’s borders?

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) seemed to co-opt some of that thinking when he expressed his objection to providing an additional $70 million in city funding for migrant services during the City Council meeting on April 19.

“From what I understand, there’s absolutely no crime in Venezuela right now. Why? Because they sent all their problems to us. They sent them all to us to deal with,” said Beale, who championed a failed advisory referendum that would have allowed Chicago voters to weigh in on whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city.

Beale then went on to say Venezuela is now “the place to be” because there’s “no crime” and “no problems.”



Beale and other Council members have legitimate concerns about city finances when they vote against more funding for migrant services. They’re right about the need to address decades of neglect of Black neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

But these frustrated Council members should stick to facts when sticking up for deserving, longtime Chicagoans. It doesn’t help their argument to malign struggling migrants with misinformation and ugly stereotypes.

At a April 15 Finance Committee meeting, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) pointed to forgotten citizens who have been “fighting for resources” for decades without success. Meanwhile, Taliaferro said, he’s seen some migrants “riding around in brand new cars” through “the support that we have given them as a city and as a body.”

Yes, some of the 40,000 migrants have maybe been spotted behind the wheel. But where is the evidence that they’re cruising around town in cars secured with city money? If that’s the case, we honestly want to see it.

We, and other Chicagoans, have seen the desperate families on foot, asking for money because they can’t work. They aren’t living the high life at city shelters. Some migrants may have broken the law and should be held accountable. But painting them all as criminals is wrong, when so many migrants left their homelands to escape gangs and other lawlessness, political discord, human rights abuses and economic uncertainty. Chicago’s inequity isn’t their fault.

Meeting this crisis is tough enough. Villainizing migrants will only make it harder.

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