Chicago’s announcement this week that the Windy City is facing a $538 million budget deficit, with a significant part of that attributable to the ongoing migrant crisis the city, marks the latest instance of a “sanctuary” city paying a heavy financial cost for migrant arrivals.
Chicago announced this week the $538 million deficit, driven by several factors including “the cost to care for new migrants arriving to the city.”
NBC Chicago reported that at least $200 million stems from costs from special project costs — including migrant care. The outlet reported that recent estimates suggest the crisis is projected to cost more than $255 million by the end of the year.
Chicago is a “sanctuary” city, meaning that it bars local and state law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Such jurisdictions will typically be associated with a more welcoming attitude to those in the country illegally beyond the restriction on law enforcement.
Hundreds of migrants are seen sleeping outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan early Monday July 31, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images)
“Chicago is a sanctuary city,” Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign website said this year. ” As such, we must always resist attempts to pit communities against each other and extend this sanctuary promise to everyone who needs it in our city — both long-time residents and newcomers alike.”
It is Chicago’s “sanctuary” designation which has made it the target of buses of migrants being sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott last year began sending buses to such cities, arguing that they are encouraging the migrant crisis that his state is dealing with. Initially starting with Washington D.C., buses later have also included Chicago and New York City.
“Texas has bused over 35,000 migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities,” Abbott said this month on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Over 11,300 to D.C., over 13,300 to NYC, over 6,700 to Chicago, over 2,600 to Philadelphia, over 1,000 to Denver, over 480 to LA.
While officials in those cities have blamed the bussing by Abbott for the crisis, it appears that those buses only account for a minority of the migrants they are facing — with many migrants turning up by themselves.
New York City, also a sanctuary city, has also faced significant financial issues. NYC Mayor Eric Adams warned recently that the crisis of over 110,000 migrant arrivals in the last year threatens to “destroy” his city.
He has also warned about the financial impact of the crisis, warning New Yorkers that it could mean cuts to services and could cost $12 billion by 2025.
Recently arrived migrants sit on cots and the floor of a makeshift shelter operated by the city at OHare International Airport on Aug. 31, 2023. ( (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images))
“We are about to experience a financial… tsunami that I don’t think the city has ever experienced,” Adams said recently. “Every service in this city is going to be impacted from child service to our seniors to housing. Everything will be impacted.”
Adams and other jurisdictions have called for federal assistance including more funding, expedited work authorizations and a federal emergency declaration.
Denver, which officials have said is not technically a sanctuary city, although it does limit cooperation with ICE, has also suffered financially due to the numbers it has seen.
Axios reported the city has seen an uptick in migrants, just as leaders are yet to solidify a plan on how to continue to provide services. The outlet reports that the city spent over $23 million since December.
Fox reported in April that the city expected to spend up to $20 million over the subsequent six months, with costs of up to $1,000 per migrant per week.