CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday to spend $51 million in funding from a 2021 budget surplus to pay for efforts to care for migrants from Central and South America who have been sent here from Texas, following a heated debate that was repeatedly interrupted by angry protesters.
The vote came one week after three alderpersons opposed to the measure temporarily blocked a final vote during Mayor Brandon Johnson's first City Council meeting.
After arranging for a meeting this week to take up that vote, aldermen approved the funding plan 34-13, after opponents in the council gallery repeatedly booed supporters who spoke up during the public comment period at the start of the meeting and aldermen who spoke during the formal debate, prompting Johnson to repeatedly chastise them, asking for both sides to respect each other's positions and allow each other to speak uninterrupted.
One woman who said she was with the group Black Lives Matter, Women of Faith, said aldermen should not be spending millions to set up temporary shelters for new migrants in Chicago before doing more to address the city's existing problems with homelessness.
"We need to take care of our community. We need to take care of our Black community. We need to open up these schools for mental health," she said. "We need to take care of our homeless. We need to open up these centers for mental health. We need to allocate some of this money for our Black children, for the Black community. We have not gotten anything for our community, and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired."
"We came over here being raped, stolen, beaten, chained in the bottom of ships- and you give migrants $51 million?" a man said.
Anooshka Gupta, a community organizer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, said Chicago has a duty to address the incoming refugees immediate needs for housing, clothing, and other support while they search for long-term housing.
"When recently-arrived families are sleeping on the floors of police stations with nowhere to go, we know that Chicago is not living up to its values. We have seen how this humanitarian crisis has exposed our city's existing gaps in services and resources," Gupta said, adding that aldermen also need to do more to support Chicago's existing struggles with affordable housing for everyone. "City Council has the opportunity to decide right now to reverse decades of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities. We shouldn't be here fighting with one another for resources. Everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive, not just survive. We cannot keep playing games with people's lives, and I'm asking that this be the starting point rather than the end."
While the shouting between supporters and opponents of the ordinance prompted Chicago police officers to remove several people from the crowd inside City Hall, the debate among aldermen was more measured, though often still passionate.