Chicagoans come together to support South American migrants

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By Suzanne Hanney
Chicago, US is currently home to thousands of migrants from Venezuela and other South American countries, many of them facing homelessness. Local street paper StreetWise reports on the crisis – and on efforts to change lives.
A meeting at Kelly High School, Chicago, US on 24 October regarding a nearby migrant camp drew differing views from three people: a neighborhood resident, a second-generation immigrant – and a one-time political detainee who walked from Venezuela to Mexico.
“I am very mad, because in this country, I have friends, family who [have] live[d] in this country [for] 30 years and don’t have papers, don’t have benefits, and now these people have benefits,” said Silvia Vegas, who lives three blocks away from the proposed winterised encampment.
“I am from Mexico and my father pay for me. I am working. My partner is a veteran. They could have benefits for the veterans.”
Andy Chen’s family emigrated to the US in the 1970s, and he lives near the Southwest Side Brighton Park neighbourhood proposed for the encampment. “I think we need to be a welcoming city,” Chen said.
“This city welcomed my family, gave us opportunities. I feel the same way about other immigrants. They make our city what it is, and we need to keep that thriving.
“A lot of this division is not anti-immigrant; it’s based on structural inefficiencies in our economy that make us lash out at each other. To be real, we are going through an affordability crisis, and who benefits from this? It’s not the residents here.
“It’s a very small portion of the population: the people who run [encampment contractor] GardaWorld or the ones running the facilities charging the city thousands of dollars an hour to staff these places.
“This is built into our economy over decades, and we’re at the mercy of it right now. And because of that, we have no good options anymore. And because of that, the community has to come together to claim our federal resources.
“They are giving a load of resources to other things. Chicago and other cities need those resources to do what’s right for the immigrant community in a global crisis we had a hand in creating as well.”

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