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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson talks migrant crisis, Bears and more in 1-on-1 interview

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson talks migrant crisis, more in 1-on-1 interview
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson talks migrant crisis, more in 1-on-1 interview 03:27

CHICAGO (CBS) –  As a major winter storm bore down on Chicago, more than 500 migrants were still waiting for shelter space in the city.

More than 200 asylum seekers were staying in warming buses at the city's landing zone. Plus, three more charter buses from Texas were expected to arrive in Chicago on Thursday.

Mayor Brandon Johnson has pleaded for help from the federal government to tackle the migrant crisis in Chicago. He sat down with CBS 2's Sabrina Franza about the city's response and more.

No topic was off the table in the conversation. The goal was to learn more about how the Johnson administration plans to govern the city in the middle of the crisis while delivering on campaign promises.

Full interview -- One-on-one with Mayor Brandon Johnson:

Full interview: One-on-one with Mayor Brandon Johnson 27:22

The answers in this interview have been edited for length.

Franza: "I want to talk about this year. New year, same mayor, new budget, right? But same mission. You talked a lot about 'treatment, not trauma' in your campaign and you're inching closer and closer to getting that done. When do you expect crisis responders to be on 911 calls?"

Johnson: "So it's not just about reopening two mental health clinics that were closed, but it's also about providing care because 40% of the 911 calls that were coming through really required a mental health care response."

Franza: "But do we know which neighborhoods are –"

Johnson: "Well, as I said, whether it's Austin, whether it's Roseland, whether it's North Lawndale, Garfield Park, pick a side of the City of Chicago on the West or South Side, or pick a neighborhood."

Franza: "We've been on the street in those communities as well, and when we talk to voters, a lot of times they'll voice concerns about being frustrated that they don't think your administration is hearing them because of the money that's being spent on the migrant crisis that they're not seeing. It seems like this money is just appearing out of thin air but isn't being invested in their own communities. Why do you think they feel that way?"

Johnson: "Well, because again, Black and brown neighborhoods, and particularly Black communities, have been disinvested in. Keep in mind that the migrant crisis, this international global crisis really requires a federal resource response."

Franza: "What if the federal government doesn't help you?"

Johnson: "Well, clearly they haven't thus far."

Franza: "But is that sustainable? Because you've said it isn't sustainable."

Johnson: "Well, I think you've answered it. No, it's not sustainable. Congress does have to act, and if they do not act, this is going to continue to cause the type of chaos that the governor of Texas wants to do."

Franza: "But we're running out of space. So where are these people gonna go?"

Johnson: "27 shelters, what I've built-"

Franza: "And they're all full."

Johnson: "And we have provided education, health care for these families, and we did all of that without having to cut back on services to people, as I've already expressed, that have been set at the margins for generations."

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson responds to criticisms over handling of migrant crisis 03:23

Franza: "Will you be adding a tax to help pay for this?"

Johnson: "Well, I think people are clearly familiar with what my vision is for revenue in this city, and my revenue, of course, is committed to making sure that we are doing everything we can to address the unhoused crisis in this city."

Franza: "So, we've asked all these questions, and we've talked to people, people in your City Council, people on the street. They're frustrated with the lack of transparency from your administration. They say, 'Shelters are opening up in my ward, and I don't know they're opening until they're open.' Why do you feel like those who you're working with collaboratively and those who have voted for you feel you are not being transparent?"

Johnson: "If people believe that there is more information that's available, then they're looking for nothing because I've been absolutely clear about this mission. There is a weekly session with alders who have helped us with this crisis."

Franza: "But why do you feel like they don't think you're transparent?"

Johnson: "What is it that you believe that I'm leaving out?"

Franza: "I'm reiterating what our reporting has shown and what voters have told us in the street, so I hope you're not blaming the media."

Johnson. "No. First of all, I never said that. I just asked a simple question. Now, what I'm also taking away from all of this is that there is a great deal of fear and trepidation, and that's being caused by the governor of Texas."

Franza: "Is there anything you want voters to know that we haven't talked about today?"

Johnson: "I've had tremendous conversations with Kevin Warren, the president and CEO of the Chicago Bears, and our two teams have worked diligently and collaboratively to make sure that there is an opportunity for real negotiations."

Franza: "So, are the Bears staying? Do we know?"

Johnson: "Well, I'm certainly working hard to make sure that the story of Chicago is intact and the Chicago Bears are a part of that story."

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