Brandon Johnson, Chicago's Democratic mayor, this week kicked off the Unity Initiative, a program that's partnering with churches to help migrants — many of whom have been forced to sleep on streets outside Chicago police stations — find housing and access social services.
And he denounced conservative pundits and politicians trying to sow division between the arriving migrants and Chicago residents. Right-wing extremists have “targeted Democratically ran cities” — many, like Chicago, run by people of color — to sow “disruption and chaos,” Johnson said.
For several months, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has redirected migrants from his state to Chicago and other cities in an anti-immigrant publicity stunt designed to burden the cities and fuel anger toward immigrants. The haphazard stunt has forced Democratic mayors in these cities to seek federal and private aid for help assisting migrants.
“At no cost to the taxpayers of Chicago, thanks to the philanthropic community, the Unity Initiative will prioritize getting pregnant women, children and all of those sleeping outside of police stations or on the floors into temporary housing as quickly as possible through churches all over the city of Chicago,” Johnson said Tuesday.
He praised the city’s “philanthropic partners” and faith leaders, linking the modern-day migrant story to that of Black people during the Great Migration. “From welcoming over 500,000 Black people to Chicago during the Great Migration to helping thousands of asylum-seekers today, it’s been the faith community that has shown its tremendous support for families throughout generations,” he said.
Acknowledging some of the local backlash to migrant arrivals in the city, Johnson denounced the “zero-sum operation” that's typical of Chicago politics, which has long pitted residents against one another and “sacrificed” Black and brown voters with budget cuts that benefit corporations over everyone else. “No one should lose at the expense of someone else winning,” he said.
Right-wing media figures and outlets dismissed his remarks, despite ample evidence that conservatives have sought to use migrant arrivals in Chicago and elsewhere to their political benefit.
Fox News host Jesse Watters provided a prime example Wednesday with a racist diatribe on "The Five" in which he alleged Black residents' political power is being “replaced” by that of Hispanic migrants having babies — a novel application of the racist “replacement theory” popular among white nationalists. Black conservative figures online — like self-identifying members of the anti-immigrant ADOS movement (which purports to represent the "American Descendants of Slavery") and conspiratorial social media influencer Umar Johnson — have spread similar claims, as well.
In other words, Mayor Johnson was undeniably correct that right-wingers are using the migrant crisis to fuel racial tensions and anti-migrant sentiment.