Asylum Seekers


During the summer of 2022, Texas officials dispatched buses with thousands of individuals and families to Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York City. The first bus arrived in Chicago on August 31, 2022, with almost 100 people who had entered the U.S. through the southern border seeking asylum. While most asylum seekers are from Venezuela, families and individuals hail from all over the world including countries in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. On September 14, 2022, Governor JB Pritzker issued an emergency disaster proclamation to speed up the procurement of immediate resources needed to help Chicago and the State provide humanitarian assistance. By January 2023, Texas had chartered over 108 buses with 5,146 individuals to Chicago. The buses arrived with no coordination or information from the State of Texas Governor’s Office. The asylum seekers were placed on buses with no food, limited access to water, and often in need of medical care. Upon arrival to Chicago, they required shelter, medical care, food, and access to clothing and other necessities.
In addition to the buses, The City of Chicago experienced an increase of asylum seekers arriving through other modes of transportation also seeking shelter and resources. As of April 28th, 2023, over 3,000 individuals who arrived by some other means requested shelter placement through the 3-1-1 process. This increase of shelter requests occurred because community organizations along the southern border purchased airline or bus tickets to other cities, including Chicago, without any coordination or confirmation of shelter space.
In response, the City of Chicago structured an emergency response plan activating all city departments and sister agencies to provide the necessary care and support. As a Welcoming City, by ordinance and historically, the City of Chicago understood its responsibility to provide access to shelter, food, and medical care to everyone regardless of immigration status. Many of the asylum seekers traveled hundreds of miles on foot, navigating great danger through multiple countries, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States. The City of Chicago, under the Lightfoot administration, committed to assisting the newly arrived families and individuals by providing human services with dignity and respect.

Above from City of Chicago

Venezuela situation

In the past, Venezuela hosted thousands of refugees from the region and other parts of the world. Now the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela has surpassed 7 million globally, according to data from governments receiving them, making this the second-largest external displacement crisis in the world.  A significant number of them are in need of international protection.

Many refugees and migrants from Venezuela are facing poverty and struggling to survive. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded an already difficult situation forcing Venezuelans deeper into poverty. Many families, forced to reduce their food intake, have taken on debts to be able to survive. They are at risk of evictions, exploitation and protection risks. 

Amid economic hardships and political discontent in some countries, refugees and migrants can be scapegoated and stigmatized, with increasing competition for jobs and limited access to public services.

The majority of refugees and migrants from Venezuela arriving in neighbouring countries are families with children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with disabilities. Often obliged to take irregular routes to reach safety, they may fall prey to smugglers, traffickers and irregular armed groups. As more and more families arrive with fewer and fewer resources, they are in immediate need of documentation, protection, shelter, food and medicine.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans remain without any documentation or permission to stay regularly in nearby countries, and therefore lack guaranteed access to basic rights. 

While host communities and countries in the region are committed to helping Venezuelans and have been generously welcoming them, they are increasingly overstretched. Several countries have initiated large-scale regularization processes to ensure refugees and migrants have access to rights and services. However, these efforts and gestures of solidarity require financial support to succeed and ensure no one is left behind.