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‘Progressive’ Mayor Evicts Migrants & Boosts Corporate Profits

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Hours after completion of the drunken revelry of Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, city officials began implementing the eviction of migrants from city- operated shelters under the orders of ‘progressive’ Mayor Brandon Johnson. Since the end of August 2022, over 37,000 migrants have been sent to Chicago, largely by right-wing Texas Governor Greg Abbott. 

The influx of migrants has tested the sincerity of Democratic politicians who have long proclaimed liberal bastions to be ‘sanctuary cities’, while assuming that they were safely removed from the day to day realities of the border crisis. While there has been much hand-wringing by city officials over what should be done, the capitalist class in Chicago and elsewhere has embraced the words of former Mayor Rahm Emmanuel – “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.”

To date the city has spent nearly $300 million on its ‘New Arrivals Mission’.  It is clear from the state of overcrowded, rodent- and cockroach-infested shelters that these funds are not being spent on ensuring the wellbeing of migrants. The city has reported a measles outbreak in at least one facility, the same facility where a five-year old boy died in December. Even as conditions worsen in the shelters and the city begins evictions, private contractors are raking in millions in fees. 

The Cottage Industry Profiting Off Migrants

The vast majority (nearly 70%) of the money paid out by the city has been to Favorite Healthcare Staffing, receiving over $206 million for its services. Favorite Healthcare is a Kansas City-based staffing agency with annual revenues of over $1.3 billion in 2023, and yet it is clear that the healthcare and safety of migrants arriving in Chicago is the last thing on their priority list. In late 2023, the Johnson administration renewed the city’s contract with Favorite Healthcare to the tune of $40 million. The staffing agency claims that its employees routinely work 84 hour weeks and it issued an invoice claiming to pay a single nurse $20,000 for one week of work. These numbers should have raised red flags for the city given that Favorite Healthcare is the same company that was ordered by the Department of Labor to pay over $3 million in back pay after underpaying 1,677 healthcare workers in the summer of 2020 – the height of the Covid-19 pandemic!

Other for-profit corporations have jumped at the opportunity to snap up their piece of the migrant crisis. Equitable Social Solutions, LLC raked in $45.5 million to ‘manage’ the properties where migrants are housed, and Open Kitchen Inc received nearly $24 million for food services. In light of the complaints to the city about inadequate access to food and water, and reports of buildings having open sewage and rotten food it is clear that most of the money spent by the city has lined the pockets of these companies’ owners. 

The city has announced that it plans to evict over 2,000 people from the shelters by the end of April. As a part of that process the city has emphasized that migrants can travel from the wholly inadequate shelters and return to the city’s “landing areas” and reapply for shelter access. Without being legally allowed to hold jobs, migrants will be forced into the underground economy, working off the books for companies willing to break the law in order to get access to exceedingly cheap labor. Others will resort to the informal market like selling candy on the streets for cash. None of these scenarios will actually be able to cover the cost of living in the city. To make matters worse there are reports of migrants losing jobs because they are forced to wait in “landing areas” or try to coordinate impromptu moves out of the shelters. 

In the end neither the Johnson administration nor the wider ruling class of Chicago has any desire to actually resolve the migrant crisis in the city. The shelter evictions, beginning just before the annual summer migrant surge is about to begin, all but guarantee an endless revolving door of people from the city’s “landing zones” to the temporary stability of the shelters. All of which guarantees corporate profits for contractors, cheap labor for those seeking it out, and continued misery for migrants who have been shipped to the city.

Fighting For Migrants & Working-Class Chicagoans

The increasing deterioration of the situation around the migrant crisis points to the absolute need for a socialist alternative to the situation. Chicago should immediately grant work permits to migrants regardless of legal status so that they can openly seek employment. There is a 23.8% vacancy rate for Chicago office space, much of that being in luxury high-rises downtown. The city should bring that space into public ownership through eminent domain and convert it into high quality temporary housing for both migrants and American-born individuals who are currently homeless.  

Any outside contractors hired to provide services for migrants must open their books for review so that resources are guaranteed to go to helping migrants and not towards padding the bosses’ pockets. City resources should be spent to provide housing, healthcare, education and community-run safety to all areas of the city to ensure that traditionally underfunded communities are not pitted against each other. Such resources should be raised by taxing the rich. 

Many Chicago neighborhoods suffer from chronic neglect by the city’s political establishment, especially majority Black neighborhoods on the south and west side. Ten years ago Rahm Emanual oversaw the shuttering of 50 public schools, most of which were in poor Black neighborhoods. One of these schools, Wadsworth Elementary in Woodlawn, has been converted into a migrant shelter, after the community had been demanding for years that it be turned into a community resource center for youth job training and recreational activities. This is a recipe for turning poor and working people against one another. The struggle for high quality accommodations for migrants has to be connected to a struggle for housing, education, and public investment across the city. We need fully funded public schools, investment in community resources, high quality and permanently affordable housing, and rent control. 

These demands are bold, but they are absolutely necessary and the only solution to the migrant crisis. As Chicago’s ‘progressive’ mayor has shown himself unequal to the task of standing up to the interests of big business and actually fighting for working people, we must get organized in our communities, in our schools and in our workplaces to build mass movements to fight back and win!

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