Why Are So Many Asylum Seekers Choosing Chicago?

Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States, is renowned for its diverse culture, vibrant arts scene, and iconic architecture. In recent years, it has emerged as a haven for numerous asylum seekers escaping violence and persecution in their home countries.

The Migration Crisis and Its Roots

A significant portion of these migrants hails from Venezuela, a South American nation grappling with political, social, and economic turmoil over the last decade. According to the United Nations, more than 7.3 million Venezuelans have sought refuge in neighboring countries or in the United States since 2014.

However, the journey to the U.S. is perilous. Many migrants navigate through the Colombian border, facing risks like violence, extortion, and human trafficking. Subsequently, they traverse Central America and Mexico, encountering additional challenges. Finally, crossing the U.S.-Mexico border poses further hurdles, including detention by immigration authorities or rejection under the policies of the Trump administration.

Texas and Illinois in the Spotlight

Texas, sharing an extensive border with Mexico, has received a substantial number of asylum seekers. Despite this, under the leadership of Republican Governor Greg Abbott, Texas has adopted a hostile stance towards migrants. Governor Abbott has attributed the spread of COVID-19, crime, and drugs to migrants, implementing measures to deter their entry or stay.

Texas has declared a state of disaster, deployed the National Guard, built a border wall, restricted transportation of migrants, and sent buses of migrants to states, particularly those with Democratic governors.

Illinois, led by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, has been receiving buses of migrants from Texas. Both leaders have criticized Abbott’s actions and declared their jurisdictions as sanctuaries, limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants.

Challenges and Opportunities in Chicago

Since August 2020, over 18,000 asylum seekers, primarily from Venezuela but also from Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, and other countries, have arrived in Chicago. The city, in collaboration with non-profit organizations, faith groups, and volunteers, has provided shelter, food, healthcare, legal assistance, and other services.

Yet, the influx of migrants poses challenges, including finding adequate space and resources, ensuring the well-being of migrants facing potential trauma and exploitation, and integrating them into the city’s social and economic fabric. Chicago aims to balance the needs and concerns of migrants with those of existing residents regarding the impact on neighborhoods, schools, and public services.

Despite these challenges, Chicago views the arrival of migrants as an opportunity to rejuvenate its population, economy, and culture. With a rich history of immigration, the city hopes that the new migrants will contribute to its diversity, creativity, and innovation, aligning with its tradition of benefiting from the contributions of various ethnic groups.


Chicago confronts a migrant crisis as it becomes a destination for asylum seekers from Texas and beyond. While the city strives to provide humanitarian aid, it grapples with the complexities and tensions arising from the situation. Simultaneously, Chicago sees the potential for migrants to contribute to its vibrancy, growth, and identity as an inclusive and welcoming city.

Leave a Comment