GardaWorld Federal Services and a subsidiary signed a one-year $29.4 million deal with Chicago on Sept. 12. The deal came less than a week after Democratic Mayor Brandon Johnson announced his plan to relocate over 1,600 immigrants waiting for a spot in a city-operated shelter to the camps before winter hit.
Many of the immigrants were living in Chicago’s police stations or at the O’Hare and Midway airports, which has caused frustration among law enforcement authorities and community members who oppose the growing influx of immigrants in the Windy City.
The contract with GardaWorld states that its purpose is “to allow the City to purchase from the State Contract temporary housing solutions and related services … to provide critical services to asylum seekers,” according to the Associated Press.
Chicago migrant expenditures could reach $302 million by the end of the year after factoring the encampment sites, Johnson’s team announced in early September. The contract with GardaWorld shared details of the tents, stating that they would be soft-material “yurt” structures that could fit 12 cots and would have fire extinguishers and portable restrooms. Makeshift kitchens would be set up nearby.
Specific sites for the camps have not yet been chosen, Johnson administration press secretary Ronnie Reese told the Chicago Sun-Times. There is no specific timetable for creating the tents in the contract.
“It’s got to be done pretty quickly if it’s gonna get done before the weather breaks,” Reese said. “The goal is to decompress the police stations as soon as possible. We know that’s not sustainable.”
More than 14,000 immigrants have arrived in Chicago from Texas seeking asylum since August 2022. As of late August 2023, 1,576 immigrants were living in Chicago police stations, and another 418 were sleeping inside O’Hare International Airport, according to city data.
Fraternal Order of Police members have criticized the Johnson administration for the number of people staying in police stations. President John Catanzara, a vocal opponent of Johnson, once called the immigrant situation “unacceptable and ridiculous working conditions.”