Sanctuary Delusion Crumbles in Chicago


November 2, 2023

By Brian Lonergan

Thanks in no small part to the Biden administration’s abandonment of immigration enforcement, residents in the bluest, most progressive cities are finally speaking out in full-throated opposition to sanctuary policies.

For the last several years, Americans have been listening as sanctimonious big-city mayors lectured us about the moral superiority of their communities owing to their sanctuary policies. We were told to pay no attention to the urban blight that seemed to get worse with each passing sanctuary year. “Immigrants make us stronger TM,” the bumper sticker slogan insisted. Anyone daring to speak against that narrative risked defenestration from polite society or worse.

This raised a question among the unindoctrinated: How bad would conditions in sanctuary cities have to get before their citizens finally stood up in opposition to the policies that have made their cities increasingly unlivable?

We now have an answer.

The loudest opposition is coming from one of the most unlikely places: Chicago. Though the city has long been synonymous with machine politics and one-party rule, Chicagoans are making it clear they are fed up with the consequences of being a sanctuary city.

Tensions were flaring at recent town hall meetings, as residents vented at city officials over the city’s latest plans to house illegal aliens in their neighborhoods. People in the Brighton Park neighborhood were protesting in the streets against plans to build a migrant tent camp on a 10 acre parcel. Residents in South Shore have re-filed a lawsuit to stop the city from housing migrants in public buildings including schools.

The natives are indeed restless, and who could blame them? With shelters overflowing, migrants are now living at Chicago’s police stations. Over 700 illegals are being temporarily housed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. This comes at a time when shootings in the city are commonplace, and there are more than 68,000 homeless people.

The residents are well aware that the needs of foreign nationals here illegally are being prioritized over their own.

Amid this tumult, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s rhetoric has been tone deaf, as he extols the virtues of being a sanctuary city while insisting he can adequately serve the needs of the city as well as an unending flow of illegal aliens. The facts say he is failing on both counts.

When it comes to misplaced priorities in the Land of Lincoln, Johnson is not alone. As Chicago residents struggle with hyperinflation, Illinois is providing migrants with $9,000 in rental assistance for temporary housing, which includes assistance with moving in and a starter kit to furnish an apartment.

During the Brighton Park protest, Alderwoman Julia Ramirez and an aide showed up to dialogue with the crowd. They were surrounded by angry residents and now claim that they were assaulted. Afterwards, Ramirez issued a statement distancing herself from Johnson’s plan to build the migrant tent camp.

Even as she sought political cover for an unpopular project, Ramirez re-affirmed her sanctuary bona fides, urging residents “to be open minded and not buy into the fearmongering and false information spread by right-wing, anti-immigrant voices who wish to divide our city.”

This represents self-serving politician-speak at its finest. Chicago residents are angry not as a result of any partisan messaging from outside the city, but from the chaos that comes with the sanctuary policies elected officials like Johnson and Ramirez support. The residents are well aware that the needs of foreign nationals here illegally are being prioritized over their own. They don’t need organized political operatives to tell them to be angry; the daily experience of living in a decaying city is more than enough to make them angry.

The locations Chicago is choosing for placement of arriving migrants also smacks of their elitism. South Shore, where residents are suing the city over the use of a former school for migrant housing, is 92.7 percent black with a median income of $26,425. Brighton Park is 80.9 percent Hispanic with a median income of $41,650. City leaders obviously favor these places as repositories for illegal aliens.

There are no such plans for Chicago’s exclusive Gold Coast section, which is 84 percent white and has a median income of $153,358. Poll the residents of Gold Coast and a majority—in alignment with the residents of Martha’s Vineyard—would no doubt support the city’s sanctuary status. But nothing can change someone’s opinion of sanctuary policies faster than actually having to live with the myriad toxic effects that come with those policies.

Residents of South Shore and Brighton Park have figured out that the best way to oppose sanctuary policies is not to grumble in silence, but to state their opposition loudly and frequently. Sanctuary mayors who desire to remain in office will have little recourse but to pay attention, and to direct resources to their constituents rather than their pet social engineering projects. The experiment of sanctuary cities has gone on far too long. It’s time to end the experiment, in Chicago and throughout the fruited plain.

Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in Washington, D.C, and co-host of IRLI’s “No Border, No Country” podcast.

Also published at Chronicles, November 2, 2023.

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