The Chicago municipal government has begun working with humanitarian organizations to outfit shelters in the Windy City where 1,000 Central American child migrants who crossed the southern U.S. border unaccompanied will be housed and cared for.
Aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was consulted in early July by the federal government regarding the possibility of preparing one or several shelters with heating, air conditioning and a minimum total area of 90,000 square feet.
The expenses associated with preparing the shelters will be handled by the federal government.
“The influx of unaccompanied child migrants is a growing humanitarian crisis that we can no longer ignore,” Emanuel said last week in a statement.
“While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot turn our backs on children that are fleeing dangerous conditions,” he said.
Emanuel promised that the city will do its part so that the kids, who are expected to arrive before the end of the year, are “treated fairly and humanely.”
The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and organizations such as the Heartland Alliance and the National Immigrant Justice Center have stepped forward with offers of help.
“At times, the greatness of our nation and our city are put to the test and the way in which we treat these children in danger is one of those tests,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the most prominent defenders of immigrants in the U.S. Congress, told Efe.
The municipal government also will seek the cooperation of law firms to get them to do pro bono work to represent the minors in their asylum requests.
The initiative was also supported by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, whose executive director, Lawrence Benito, said that Chicago has a network of attorneys, volunteers, leaders, service providers and community organizations who are “ready and willing to help children who are simply trying to save their own lives.”