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Chicago mayor faces questions about migrants and ARPA funds


(The Center Square) – Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson says the city will not be spending more federal pandemic relief funds on migrant care.

Reporters questioned Johnson Thursday, after state and county leaders announced plans to spend another $250 million on migrants. Johnson decided against committing another $70 million, saying the deal is not just about financial resources.

“Remember that the state of Illinois committed to 2,000 beds back in November, and we are still working out and flushing out the details around that,” Johnson said.

The mayor has proposed raising the city’s real-estate transfer tax to address homelessness, while more than 70% of the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act pandemic assistance money remains available. He dismissed the notion of using ARPA funds for migrants.

“So first of all I’m going to spend all that money, I can assure you that. And we’re going to make sure that the communities that have been impacted the most by gross disinvestment, that those dollars reach those communities,” Johnson said.

The mayor spoke after a city council meeting on Thursday. He said the responsibility for taking care of migrants should not fall solely on the city of Chicago. Johnson defended his decision to not commit another $70 million to migrant care, while the state of Illinois and Cook County announced plans to spend an additional $250 million.

It’s not just about financial resources, it’s about an entire operation, Johnson said.

“For the first time in the history of the world, a local municipality has been asked to establish, build, maintain and operate a migrant resettlement,” the mayor said.

Chicago is a sanctuary city where federal immigration laws are not enforced, a policy Johnson said will remain despite some public support for repealing that status.

Johnson said Democratic cities are being overwhelmed while people in Washington D.C. sit on their hands.

“The state of Illinois, Cook County, the city of Chicago are all working together to respond to this international crisis, which, quite frankly, everybody knows is a federal responsibility,” said Johnson.