Wadsworth

The former Wadsworth Elementary School building, 6420 S. University Ave., in October 2015

For the second time after reports of the imminent opening of the former Wadsworth Elementary, 6420 S. University Ave., for migrants, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration says "the city has not determined a firm date on when this space will open for shelter."

“As a welcoming city, we are committed to receiving asylum seekers with dignity and respect. We have worked with county, state, local leaders and community-based partners to explore all options for temporary shelters to respond to the urgent needs of our new arrivals. The city is continuing to engage with the Woodlawn community and is committed to carefully balancing the needs of both our residents and new arrivals,” spokesman Ryan Johnson said Friday in a statement.

Senior communications officials in the mayoral administration have declined on-record interviews on the subject.

The Texas government has sent thousands of migrants over the past months to “sanctuary cities” — so named because their local law enforcement departments do not enforce federal immigration laws — like Chicago, which has taken in nearly 4,000 migrants and asylum seekers in this way since August.

A meeting with Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) and city officials is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave.

Jennifer Maddox, who is running against Taylor in the 20th Ward aldermanic election, organized a rally of about a dozen people on Thursday morning, Jan. 5, to protest the decision to house migrants in the old Wadsworth school. 

“We are tired of being shut out and dumped on as residents in Woodlawn and the South Side,” Maddox said in a statement.

Taylor distanced herself from the protest, during which a speaker who declined to self-identify suggested that the migrants instead be housed in the majority-Latino Little Village neighborhood, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“This type of localized nationalism does nothing to uplift working class communities of color and only feeds the worst of right wing politics,” State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) said Thursday in a tweet about the protest. 

But Taylor did articulate a sense of frustration that Woodlawn, with its decades-long problems around homelessness, blight and substandard delivery of social services, was being asked to host a facility she said it is ill-prepared for.

"What I want us to think about is, these folks have already been through a traumatic experience. We're going to take them another one without having the resources and real support for them?" Taylor asked. "The city has a responsibility to have sanctuary for everybody, for all. So I hear people on both sides, but this is not a time for us to pit Black and brown against each other."

She noted the sprawling 20th Ward's Latino population, in Back of the Yards, as well as the solidarity among Latinos and African Americans in her days of activism against school closures. (She noted that Wadsworth was one of the public elementary schools the city closed in 2013, which she said "traumatized" the surrounding community.")

"The thought that this country is just busing people to different states because they don't want to be bothered says something about this system, and we're just caught up in it in our emotions," Taylor said.

The alderwoman wants residents and institutions of the area around the Wadsworth building to have input in the planning. She is also having a closed meeting on Monday with representatives of the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Public Schools as well as selected local stakeholders.

"People are watching this and seeing that I'm the sacrificial lamb for this, and what I say can make or break me, because either 'I'm not Black enough,' or 'I don't like migrants.' I'm being thrown under the bus either way." Taylor said. "I get Black people's anger altogether, because I'm that person. If I'm nothing else, I'm a Black woman first. But that does not make me hate any group of people. That does not make me say 'don't take care of them.' We're caught up in this thing because the City of Chicago has not done its due diligence with its own homeless population."

"We cannot be fighting each other because of something that we're inheriting. Folks from El Paso are sending these buses to Chicago intentionally, but that does not mean we don't work together and come up with a plan that makes everybody safe and that everybody understands," she said.

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