Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is set to aggressively expand the amount of shelter available to children apprehended at the southern U.S. border, with plans to house as many as 1,000 additional young immigrants in Chicago by the end of this year.
The mayor’s office also plans to tap the city’s legal community to build what it described as a “broad-based pro bono campaign” to counsel the city’s share of unauthorized immigrant children, a proposal hatched as federal authorities work to boost the government’s capacity to shelter and care for the unprecedented number of children arriving from Latin America.
“While we have our own challenges at home, we cannot turn our backs on children that are fleeing dangerous conditions,” Emanuel said in a statement. “We will do our part to ensure that these children are given access to services and treated fairly and humanely.”
Funding for the facilities — and for the children’s education, health care, food, security and social services — would come from the federal government, Emanuel’s administration said. The effort’s estimated cost isn’t yet known, a mayoral aide said.
The precise number and locations of sites to be retrofitted as shelters is yet to be determined. But the facilities would augment nine existing shelters in the Chicago area that, according to officials with the National Immigrant Justice Center, already hold roughly 500 beds for immigrant children brought here by the federal government.
Emanuel’s plans for young border crossers thrusts the former political operative and White House chief of staff into a controversial federal effort to determine what to do with more than 57,000 immigrant children who have crossed the U.S. border during the last nine months.
The federal government also has approached other cities to evaluate their potential to provide a broad range of facilities and temporary shelters, drawing fire from some who oppose shelters in their communities.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this month that Los Angeles would help shelter immigrant children who have been detained after crossing the border.
New York City and Dallas are among other cities that have said they would allow minors to be housed in federally funded facilities.
However, towns in Arizona, California, Michigan and Maryland have resisted efforts by federal authorities to house migrants there.