A growing number of Chicago residents, neighborhood activists, and business owners — many of whom are Democrats — are blasting the city and state's handling of the migrant crisis.
Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker in August 2021 signed legislation "expanding protections for immigrant and refugee communities and further establishing Illinois as the most welcoming state in the nation."
The state has directed $640 million toward sheltering, feeding, and caring for the migrants. The city of Chicago, under Democrat Mayor Brandon Johnson, paid out at least $138 million last year for similar initiatives, WTTW reported.
Meanwhile, the migrant crisis has divided Chicago's Democrat base, with the progressive response infuriating more traditional party groups.
Chicago neighborhood leaders are angry after seeing their parks and community centers turned into shelters, and about soaring cases of shoplifting.
"The immigration crisis is going to flip the state of Illinois purple,” Zerlina Smith-Members, a Chicago victim-services advocate, told National Review.
"There's a division in our Democratic Party. It has weakened. It is going to get worse. The city of Chicago voters have woke up. The state of Illinois voters have woke up. And they're not standing with our old leadership."
Smith-Members, a black mother, independent Democrat and activist on Chicago's West Side, added that the migrant crisis "has shown everyone's hands in our leadership, which has been the Democratic Party" that "blacks really don't matter."
She sees money going for migrant resources while her neighborhood deals with such issues as poor-performing schools, homelessness, high taxes, gangs, and illegal guns.
"We have people who have come her illegally, who have jumped the line," she told National Review.
Pritzker, in an attempt to redirect blame for his state's situation, last month begged Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to stop busing migrants to Illinois.
Residents such as Smith-Members, though, aren't blaming Abbott.
"It's a [President Joe] Biden thing. It's a Pritzker thing. It's a Brandon Johnson thing. They wanted sanctuary cities," said Smith-Members, who is running for Johnson's former seat on the Cook County commission. "It's not Abbott's fault, because he didn't ask for it. We asked for it."
Dr. Lora Chamberlain, a peace activist on Chicago's North Side, agreed with Smith-Members, and added she doesn't blame Abbott "one little bit."
"What state could possibly take in millions of refugees?" Chamberlain told National Review.
Tio Hardiman, a black South Side anti-violence activist, is critical of the large amounts of taxpayer money being spent on migrants.
A $9,000 rental assistance program, food and laundry services, and healthcare screenings are a "slap in the face to all the people over here that have been deprived of resources for decades," Hardiman said.
Chicago business owners also are angry.
Brandon Vulpitta, a co-owner of a downtown karaoke and cocktail bar, said running a business next to one of the larger migrant shelters has been "brutal."
Vulpitta told National Review that he has seen fights, illicit drug sales, and people illegally selling food out of coolers and trunks of cars during the past year.
"One day, we were open and we looked out the back window and there was a boxing match in Pritzker Park," Vulpitta said. "It wasn't a brawl. They were wearing boxing gloves. They had a crowd watching them. I don't know if they were betting on it or what."
Charlie McCarthy ✉
Charlie McCarthy, a writer/editor at Newsmax, has nearly 40 years of experience covering news, sports, and politics.
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