Chicago has started evicting migrants from shelters

Here's a look at how the 60-day shelter stay works.

Migrants outside a shelter in Chicago
Migrants outside a shelter in Chicago on Feb. 15. (Armando L. Sanchez/Getty Images)

Chicago, a major U.S. city that has absorbed over 37,000 migrants since 2022, has started its first round of evictions of migrants staying in its shelters.

While the city says its eviction process — which gives migrants 60 days to find a permanent location to live — is a way to nudge migrants toward independence, volunteers say Chicago’s process has spurred chaos in the migrant community.

🏠 A look at migrant shelter evictions

On Friday, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's office said 34 migrants would be evicted from shelters on Sunday. But only three people ended up leaving this weekend.

The majority of the migrants were able to extend their stay for reasons ranging from having health problems to being part of a family with children.

In November, the city of Chicago, in partnership with the state of Illinois, announced it would limit the time a migrant could stay in a shelter to 60 days.

Since then, weather, staffing issues and criticism from advocates and elected officials had postponed the rollout of the policy. But with the first round starting this weekend, a total of 2,026 people are expected to be evicted by April 30.

By the end of March, 244 people will be forced to leave. The remaining 1,782 migrants will have to leave the shelters throughout April.

As part of the city’s so-called New Arrivals Mission, asylum seekers who hit that two-month mark have to find permanent housing through rental assistance or with loved ones.

But the possibility of eviction remains high for migrants as they contend with Illinois state offices lacking resources to alleviate application backlogs in a timely manner.

Migrants eat outside a shelter in Chicago
Migrants eat outside a shelter in Chicago earlier this month. (Armando L. Sanchez/Getty Images)

However, the city’s policy says that if migrants exhaust their options, they can go back to the city’s landing zone — the designated area where buses with migrants drop off the new arrivals — then reapply for city assistance and request placement at another shelter.

There are currently 11,210 migrants living in shelters around the city, according to Johnson’s office.

Many of the migrants and asylum seekers in Chicago were sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. After they entered the U.S. through the southern border with Mexico, he transported them to Democrat-led cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Denver.

Around 14,700 migrants have already left Chicago-area shelters for housing in the area, and another 5,200 have reunited with family and friends in Illinois, as well as other states.

Johnson’s office — which did not immediately respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment — has touted the city’s support of those nearly 20,000 migrants as “a pathway to stability and self-sufficiency.”

✅ Who qualifies for an extension to stay in a shelter?

Johnson said that while evictions would encourage resettlement, the city would extend the stay limit on a case-by-case basis.

Migrants who are applying for city benefits, are pregnant and/or need infant care, are disabled, need to be quarantined or medically isolated, have a mental health condition, have concerns of gender-based fears of violence or are mourning the loss of a loved one could qualify to stay in a shelter.

The mayor’s office also announced that families with children can extend their stays for 30 days and can renew three times, but only until June 10. Families with children enrolled in Chicago public schools can automatically stay until the end of the school year.

🫂 Where can migrants go if they're not allowed at shelters?

Johnson’s office said that as of Friday, the city is helping to support about 4,155 people in their efforts to move toward securing housing.

“We'll be working with them to make sure they can connect with family and friends,” Brandie Knazze, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, told a local CBS station. “Again, that's part of what the case management is preparing them [for].”

Since December 2022, the Asylum Seeker Emergency Rental Assistance Program — a state initiative to help people find housing — has assisted families with leaving shelters and moving into apartments. The program also covers three months of rent.

Volunteers around the city have been working with migrants to navigate resettlement, including helping them access public services and housing. But if migrants have exhausted these options, they have the option to reapply for city assistance.

But volunteers like Erika Villegas, who is also a real estate agent, have slammed the eviction process for leaving asylum seekers with a future of uncertainty.

“This idea of migrants having to leave their current shelter to go to the landing zone to then have to enter the system again is a chaotic and backwards-thinking system that only creates more confusion and tax dollars that are being spent irresponsibly,” Villegas told NBC News.