Chicago Signs Nearly $30 Million Contract To Build Giant Winterized Tent Camps For Migrants

Chicago is facing a migrant crisis and is struggling to find long-term solutions.
Venezuelan migrants sit on the sidewalk outside the Inn of Chicago on Aug. 17, 2023. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The city of Chicago has signed a $29.4 million contract with a private security firm to move newly arrived illegal migrants to massive winterized camps with tents.

Chicago officials inked the one-year deal with GardaWorld Federal Services on September 12. The firm will be responsible for building, staffing, and operating the huge tents, which must be able to house between 250 and 1,400 migrants.

Chicago is facing a migrant crisis and is struggling to find long-term solutions. The country’s third-largest city has seen an influx of about 13,500 migrants recently and has already spent at least $250 million on the issue.

Mayor Brandon Johnson detailed his plan for massive migrant tents earlier this month.

The tents will reportedly have “yurt” structures that would fit 12 cots each and have fire extinguishers and portable restrooms, according to the contract. Makeshift kitchens would be set up nearby. The tents will also reportedly have laundry, three meals a day, security, all-day child care, and transportation to doctor’s appointments.

The purpose of the contract is “to allow the City to purchase from the State Contract temporary housing solutions and related services … to provide critical services to asylum seekers,” the contract states.

The timeline of building the tents and their locations are still unclear, but the mayor’s press secretary, Ronnie Reese, said the goal is to have the tents ready before the cold weather.

“It’s got to be done pretty quickly if it’s gonna get done before the weather breaks,” Reese told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The goal is to decompress the police stations as soon as possible. We know that’s not sustainable.”

In recent months, the newly arrived migrants have been sheltering in Chicago’s police stations and the city’s two airports.

Johnson has faced pushback from members of the city council over the migrant tent plan.

The mayor asked all 50 city council members to find two acres in their wards for a large tent that could house 200 migrants.

“I’ve looked in my ward. I just don’t have any available space. I have one of the most dense wards in the city,” said Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward includes parts of downtown, ABC7 reported.

Another council member, Alderman David Moore, said several vacant lots on the South Side should be set up for Chicago residents, not new migrants.

“I’m a believer in help your people first, help yourselves first, help your community first. And then, reach out and help others,” Moore said.

The migrant situation has also angered Chicago residents, particularly those on the South Side, who have complained about the city’s money being spent on migrants rather than on their communities.

In the meantime, Chicago leaders have been begging the federal government for help with the migrant crisis.

“Let me state this clearly: the city of Chicago cannot go on welcoming new arrivals safely and capably without significant support and immigration policy changes,” Johnson said in late August.

The federal government has already given Chicago and Illinois at least $8.5 million for the migrant crisis.

Chicago is not the only major city battling a migrant crisis.

New York City is struggling to metabolize about 113,000 migrants who have streamed into the city since last summer. New York also set up tent shelters for migrants last year but ran into issues including flooding in one of those shelters.

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