Chicago Signs $29 Million Contract With Security Firm to Move Migrants to Winterized Camps

Chicago Signs $29 Million Contract With Security Firm to Move Migrants to Winterized Camps
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks to guests after taking the oath of office in Chicago on May 15, 2023. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chicago officials have signed a $29.4 million contract with a private security firm to put up base camps across the city for illegal immigrants.

GardaWorld Federal Services and its subsidiary Aegis Defense Services sealed a one-year deal with Chicago on Sept. 12.

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.

The deal came less than a week after Democratic Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans to move about 1,600 illegal immigrants to a network of newly erected tent cities across the city before winter.

Many of those illegal immigrants have been living temporarily inside Chicago police stations or at O’Hare and Midway airports.

Earlier this month, Johnson’s team noted that Chicago’s migrant expenditures could reach $302 million by the end of the year when factoring in the costs of the new tent encampment sites.

The mayor has yet to identify the specific locations or timelines for the camps, according to Johnson’s press secretary, Ronnie Reese. However, the contract reveals some specifics about the tents that will be used, including soft-material “yurt” structures that would each fit 12 cots and be outfitted with fire extinguishers and portable restrooms with makeshift kitchens to be set up nearby. Questions remain on the tents’ heating capabilities during the unforgiving Chicago winter.

“It’s got to be done pretty quickly if it’s gonna get done before the weather breaks,” Reese told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The goal is to decompress the police stations as soon as possible. We know that’s not sustainable.”

The contract will consist of at least six locations across the city, holding up to 1,400 people at each location.

"They are clearly in a crisis that they inherited prior to that we had an administration that didn't tell us much of anything, so I do understand there are a lot of difficult decisions, I don't agree with this one," Alderman Andre Vasquez, chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Rights Committee in the city council, told ABC 7.

City council members are concerned about reported controversy surrounding GardaWorld Federal Services, including a Florida contract to relocate illegal immigrants.

"If in effect we are sending funds to the same people that are busing people over, that presents what appears to be a clear conflict of interest," 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez told the outlet.

The city released a statement saying Garda World was selected “based on expediency because of the statewide master contract with the State of Illinois through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Department of Human Services.”

Additionally, the contract “enables the City to stand up the base camps expeditiously, and more quickly move new arrivals from Chicago Police Department district stations as the weather begins to change.”

Most of Chicago’s 14,000 illegal immigrants who have arrived since August 2022 have come through Texas, some under the direction of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

As of late August 2023, 1,576 illegal immigrants were living in Chicago police stations, and another 418 were sleeping inside O’Hare International Airport, according to city data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.