CHICAGO (CBS) — Six aldermen want the City Council to encourage non-profits in Chicago to house and support migrant children who have fled violence in Central America and crossed the border into the U.S.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) introduced the resolution calling for Chicago charities to work with the Obama administration to find housing and support services for the migrant children.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw his support behind the plan, who said the city has the resources to provide shelter for 1,000 immigrant children, saying the city can’t ignore their plight.
“This speaks to who we are as a city in welcoming them,” he said.
The mayor noted his own grandfather, a Russian Jew, fled the pogroms in Eastern Europe at the age of 13, and ended up in Chicago.
Emanuel said the city can’t turn its back on immigrants fleeing violence in their homelands, and pointed to the example of the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner carrying hundreds of German Jewish refugees who were fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. The ship was forced to return to Europe after being denied entry to Cuba, the United States, and Canada.
“When [President Franklin] Roosevelt turned away the St. Louis, and sent the Jewish kids back to Nazi Germany. These kids are leaving violence. They’re a thousand kids. We are not only a city of big shoulders, we’re a city of big hearts, and we will welcome them, and get them on their way, and we will also make sure that the city of Chicago has universal pre-K, universal Kindergarten,” Emanuel said.
Although 28 refugees on the St. Louis were admitted to Cuba, more than 900 others were forced to return to Europe – where they were admitted in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. All those who were admitted by Britain survived World War II, save one who died in an air raid. Of those who ended up in continental Europe, 87 managed to get out before Germany invaded Western Europe in May 1940. More than 530 were trapped by the German invasion, and 254 of them died in the Holocaust.
Though some critics have said the mayor should focus on Chicago’s problems with gun violence, he said the city has the resources to provide services for its own children, and those fleeing Central America.
Emanuel said the city can afford to provide shelter to the migrant children without short-changing kids who were born here.