Chicago's new far-left mayor Brandon Johnson is working to implement a $25 million program that would subsidize rent costs for illegal immigrants, a plan that comes as Johnson's liberal allies press him to cut funding for other priorities such as policing.
Johnson is "eyeing" a plan to provide more than 6,500 illegal immigrants with six months of rental assistance, a program that would cost $25 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. Both city and state taxpayers would be on the hook for the plan, given that Johnson is seeking "state assistance" to fund it. In addition to the rent subsidies, Johnson wants to work with the federal government to expedite work permits for the illegal immigrants so that they can "sustain" themselves after the subsidies expire. "You can characterize our strategy as ultimately resettlement," Johnson's deputy chief of staff, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, told the Tribune.
Johnson's rental assistance plan for illegal immigrants comes as American citizens living in Chicago weather a summer surge in shootings. During Memorial Day weekend, for example, at least 11 people died in shootings across Chicago, while at least 46 others—including 2 toddlers—were injured. Still, the violence has not stopped Johnson's liberal allies from pushing the mayor to slash Chicago's police budget by 9 percent and eliminate 1,000 vacant police positions. The policy proposals came through a May report from the Action Center on Race and the Economy, a left-wing group that counts a member of Johnson's transition team as a top staffer.
Johnson, whose office did not return a request for comment, has touted Chicago as a "sanctuary city" that should "live by its promise" and "welcome immigrants, migrants, and refugees." "Sanctuary means that everyone is welcome here, and as a city we commit to take care of each other and provide all of our neighbors with the resources they need to thrive," Johnson's campaign site says.
Republican governors such as Texas's Greg Abbott have cited that "sanctuary city" status as reason to bus illegal immigrants to Chicago, prompting former mayor Lori Lightfoot to issue an emergency declaration over the "surge" in migrants just days before she left office in May. For the Johnson administration, however, Chicago's open embrace of "sanctuary city" policies does not explain the spike in illegal immigrants residing in the city. Instead, U.S. foreign policy is to blame.
"In many ways this is the chickens coming home to roost in terms of failed U.S. foreign policy and what has historically happened in Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of destabilizing governments and economies," Pacione-Zayas told the Tribune, "which then has you pushing people toward the United States to flee their countries because of the conditions and seek different outcomes."
Johnson, a former teachers' union organizer, narrowly defeated opponent Paul Vallas in Chicago's April mayoral runoff election. Lightfoot did not reach the runoff, as she finished third in the election's first round. Vallas centered his campaign on a promise to hire more police officers, contrasting that plan with Johnson's 2020 support for the movement to defund police.
Johnson as a union organizer helped lead a 2019 Chicago Teachers Union strike, which eventually compelled Chicago Public Schools to bar U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from entering school buildings without criminal warrants. As a county commissioner, meanwhile, Johnson worked to create the Cook County Public Defender Immigration Unit, which provides legal representation for illegal immigrants and protects them from deportation.
Beyond his immigration policies, Johnson campaigned on a so-called transaction tax, which would place a $1 or $2 tax on financial transactions. Just days into Johnson's tenure as mayor, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange threatened to leave the city should Johnson enact the tax hike.
"Mr. Johnson has no legal authority to impose a transaction tax on my business," the exchange's CEO, Terry Duffy, said in May. "In our leases, we have a language in there that says if there's something that's ill-conceived from the city or the state, that our leases are null and void. We're in a very strong position. If we had to leave, we could leave."