CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Some Venezuelan migrants who traveled north to Chicago say they’re returning home due to the lack of infrastructure, jobs, cold weather, and resentful locals.
Michael Castejon, 39, one of an estimated 20,700 migrants who circumvented official ports of entry to come into the United States and was then bused to Chicago from Texas, told The Chicago Tribune that his family was tired of sleeping on the floors of police stations and temporary shelters and is returning home.
“How many more months of living in the streets will it take? No, no more. It’s better that I leave. At least I have my mother back home,” he told the paper. “We just want to be home. If we’re going to be sleeping in the streets here, we’d rather be sleeping in the streets over there.”
Castejon arrived in Chicago five months ago, in buses sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities,” including Chicago.
The Tribune reported that some migrants had been drawn to Chicago after being led to believe they would be quickly granted asylum and issued a work permit.
“We didn’t know things would be this hard. I thought the process was faster,” to get a work permit, Castejon said.
He said his family suffered from homelessness and a lack of job opportunities, depleted by the repeated waves of incoming migrants.
Governor JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking to let states sponsor non-citizens to help fill existing labor shortages.
Under U.S. immigration law, foreign nationals seeking asylum in America are required to wait in their home country for 150 days after submitting their application for a work permit.
The mayor and governor said that those jobs could help migrants avoid workplace exploitation and provide a stable income to move into more permanent housing. They also want more federal funding.
Castejon said his stepdaughter was unable to find a school to enroll in, despite one of the reasons they left Venezuela was the hope of finding a better education.
“The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore. There’s nothing here for us. We just want to be home,” he told the Tribune after securing plane tickets from a Catholic charity to send his family back to Texas.
Chicago residents have expressed frustration at the millions of dollars spent on migrant care and shelter at the expense of the city’s impoverished communities.
Pritzker sent a letter to President Joe Biden in early October asking for federal funding to house and care for the continued arrival of migrants.
In early November, Johnson joined mayors from New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, and Houston to ask President Joe Biden for $5 billion in federal funding to provide services to an “overwhelming” influx of non-citizen migrants.
Chicago declared itself a “sanctuary city” for foreign migrants in 2021, and vowed to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The announcement was made in response to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a wall along the Texas border.
According to the city’s Sanctuary City Ordinance, Chicago authorities do not ask an individual’s immigration status or report noncitizens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Under U.S. immigration rules, immigrants seeking asylum in America are required to wait in their home country for 150 days after submitting their application for a work permit.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that more than 600,000 people have entered the country illegally in 2023, and another 900,000 were either intercepted or turned themselves in to pursue asylum.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said 3.2 million people crossed the border in the 2023 fiscal year, the most recorded in U.S. history.
Chicago and Illinois taxpayers have set aside $94 million for migrant housing, and the state has budgeted $550 million for migrant health care, but authorities say there is no end in sight to the arrivals and critics say the cost will fall on taxpayers.
Earlier this month, Pritzker said federal leaders should stop migrants from coming to Illinois in droves over the winter, saying the lack of shelter will make the Midwest cold more dangerous.