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Migrants on streets asking for food, money and compassion

Nearly 20,000 Venezuelan migrants have been bussed or flown into Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott since August 2022, according to the official website for the City of Chicago. Many of these migrants, including children, are seeking asylum. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration has temporarily placed migrants in police stations and other shelters while they await stable housing.

Many college students new to the area have observed the influx of migrants from Venezuela. As migrant families began to gather on the streets of downtown Chicago, the amount of migrants and how badly they needed help has become more apparent in recent months. 

Two mothers sitting on the sidewalk with three children in the South Loop tried to get the attention of people walking past, asking them for food or money, but their efforts were mostly turned down or ignored as they spoke no English.

Alexandra and her two children spend their days on the street asking for money, and spend their nights on the floor of a Chicago police station. Photo by Izzy Smith.

“We have been here in Chicago for five days,” Alexandra said. “We are waiting for you to help us.” 

Alexndra and her family traveled through the Darién Gap, one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. They eventually arrived at the U.S. border in Mexico and entered Texas. 

“We traveled through 10 countries to get here,” she said. That’s when they were relocated by Gov. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star and sent to Chicago.

Alexandra and Kenyimar said that traveling with their children was exceedingly difficult, but they are holding out hope. 

“I know that very soon we will have a stable home and we will be able to work to fight for them,” Alexandra said, referring to her children. 

Kenyimar carries a handwritten sign to get the attention of people on the street. Photo by Izzy Smith.

With no job, no means of transportation and a significant language barrier, these women and their families have many obstacles to overcome. Few people stopped to give them money or food, yet they continued to sit on the sidewalk in hopes of receiving some sort of support. As for what the citizens of Chicago could do to help them and the families just like theirs, Kenyimar’s said, “[We need] food, clothes, whatever comes from your heart, friend.”

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