Chicago’s Winterized Asylum Seeker Camp Scrapped Over Toxic Contaminants

A plan to construct a winterized base camp on Chicago’s Southwest side for asylum seekers has been scrapped due to concerns over toxic contaminants being buried at the site.

The need for the military-style winterized camp shelter, which was going to hold 2,000 on a 9.5-acre lot, was necessary to house the influx of migrants into Chicago who were mostly bussed in through a program launched by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Since August 2022, over 24,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago. They have since taken up shelter on the floors of city police stations, airports and other areas, including outdoor tents.  

Thus, the base camp was seen as a solution to help address this humanitarian crisis occurring within the city. But following an environmental report that revealed contaminants at the site, the former home of a railyard with tanks and oil houses, Gov. JB Pritzker decided to nix the project. 

“My administration is committed to keeping asylum seekers safe as we work to help them achieve independence,” said Governor JB Pritzker, in a statement. “We will not proceed with housing families on a site where serious environmental concerns are still present. My administration remains committed to a data-driven plan to improve the asylum seeker response and we will continue to coordinate with the City of Chicago as we work to expand available shelter through winter.”

On Monday, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office provided assurances, based on the findings of Chicago consultant company Terracon, that the Brighton Park site was deemed safe for temporary residential use. 

But in a stunning rebuke, Gov. Pritzker’s office pulled the plug. 

An examination revealed elevated levels of mercury, four metals, DEHP—a chemical commonly found in plastic products—and two semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), typically present in pesticides, oil-based products, and fire retardants, according to the Associated Press. 

The failed plan caused three aldermen – Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) – to issue a letter to Mayor Johnson calling for the resignation of department leaders who helped oversee the project. 



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