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Chicago's Winterized Asylum Seeker Camp Scrapped Over Toxic Contaminants

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Dec 8, 2023, 4:06:48 AM12/8/23
A plan to construct a winterized base camp on Chicago’s Southwest side for
asylum seekers has been scrapped due to concerns over toxic contaminants
being buried at the site.

The need for the military-style winterized camp shelter, which was going
to hold 2,000 on a 9.5-acre lot, was necessary to house the influx of
migrants into Chicago who were mostly bussed in through a program launched
by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Since August 2022, over 24,000 migrants have
arrived in Chicago. They have since taken up shelter on the floors of city
police stations, airports and other areas, including outdoor tents.

Thus, the base camp was seen as a solution to help address this
humanitarian crisis occurring within the city. But following an
environmental report that revealed contaminants at the site, the former
home of a railyard with tanks and oil houses, Gov. JB Pritzker decided to
nix the project.

“My administration is committed to keeping asylum seekers safe as we work
to help them achieve independence,” said Governor JB Pritzker, in a
statement. “We will not proceed with housing families on a site where
serious environmental concerns are still present. My administration
remains committed to a data-driven plan to improve the asylum seeker
response and we will continue to coordinate with the City of Chicago as we
work to expand available shelter through winter.”

On Monday, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office provided assurances, based on
the findings of Chicago consultant company Terracon, that the Brighton
Park site was deemed safe for temporary residential use.

But in a stunning rebuke, Gov. Pritzker’s office pulled the plug.

An examination revealed elevated levels of mercury, four metals, DEHP—a
chemical commonly found in plastic products—and two semivolatile organic
compounds (SVOCs), typically present in pesticides, oil-based products,
and fire retardants, according to the Associated Press.

The failed plan caused three aldermen – Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), Ald.
Raymond Lopez (15th), and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) – to issue a
letter to Mayor Johnson calling for the resignation of department leaders
who helped oversee the project.
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