Plans to house asylum seekers at Wright College appear to be moving forward; only 38th Ward residents allowed at May 23 meeting, Ald. Sposato says
by BRIAN NADIG
Plans to temporarily house 400 asylum seekers at Wright College, 4300 N. Narraganset Ave., appear to be moving forward, and the May 23 community meeting on the plans will be primarily informational, “not a community vote on whether to do it,” Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said.
“I believe it’s a done deal,” Sposato said Monday. He added that he nevertheless scheduled the meeting because city officials “had no interest in communicating (the plans) to the community.”
“I’m certainly not going to be tying myself to the front door” to prevent Wright from being used as a shelter, Sposato said.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, in the Wright theater, with admittance restricted to 38th Ward residents, Sposato said. IDs will be checked at the door, and entry will be denied to those who do not live in the 38th Ward, he added.
Checking IDs at community meetings is unusual but has been done before.
One such meeting occurred in 2017 when then-alderman John Arena restricted access to a meeting on a proposed mixed-income housing development in Jefferson Park to 45th Ward residents. Hundreds, including protestors on both sides, waited outdoors.
On Twitter Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) has been encouraging people to attend the meeting, tweeting that “alders do not have jurisdiction over city colleges (and) second, everyone can go to city colleges regardless of where the live.”
Sposato said that he arranged the meeting specifically for his ward and that other alderpersons are free to call their own meeting about Wright.
Sposato said that he has received assurances from city officials that the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District will not be used as a shelter if migrants are being housed at the college. More than 200 asylum seekers have been temporarily housed at the 16th District since Jan. 1, with around 20 to 25 there on a daily basis in recent weeks.
The district may have to accommodate some “walk-ins” for a short time, but the city will no longer be transporting migrants who are flown into O’Hare Airport to the 16th District, which is the closest police district to the airport, Sposato said.
Sposato added that 16th District officers are not supposed to be providing security at Wright for the migrants because a private security firm will be used.
Half of the 400 migrants will be housed in the gymnasium and the other half in the community/atrium space, Sposato said.
Plans call for the migrants to live on the campus from June 1 to Aug. 1, but it’s not clear where they would be relocated before fall semester classes start.
“That’s what I find hard to believe,” Sposato said of the plan to relocate the migrant families after Aug. 1. He said that there are about 800 migrants living at the city’s 22 police districts.
Sposato said that he wishes President Biden would sign an executive order to allow the asylum seekers to work legally. He said that they should have the option of working, with the income helping their families while generating tax revenue.