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Chicago police station housing dozens of migrant families reaches breaking point

Chicago police station housing dozens of migrant families reaches breaking point
Chicago police station housing dozens of migrant families reaches breaking point 02:50

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency declaration on Tuesday after a surge of new migrant arrivals in the city, in hopes of getting federal and state money to help the city respond to the crisis.

Hundreds of families have been living out of police stations and city buildings after Lightfoot said they were "inhumanely" bused to Chicago. CBS 2's Marissa Perlman had the story on what it's been like for police.

There are more than 70 migrant families staying at the Chicago Police Department's 12th district station. CBS 2 had the opportunity to hear some of their stories and hear from police who said they're at a breaking point.

Dozens of families sit outside of the 12th district police station on the Near West Side. Everything they own, pillows, blankets, strollers, is stacked on the sidewalk.

"I've been here for two weeks," said Johon Torres, who came from Venezuela.

Torres' family includes three daughters and his niece who are all at the station with him.

He said every morning, they're told to leave the station until 6 p.m. At night, they're allowed inside, sleeping along with other families in tight quarters. They haven't taken a shower since they arrived at the station. Now, they wait for help from the city and for a bed of their own.

It's also been a complicated journey for Jomala Albao and her family. Like many, she came for a better life. Back home in Venezuela, she said she had no rights.

She's been told there is no shelter space in Chicago for mothers and their kids to stay together, but now they need medicine, sleeping bags and food.

"Now it's ballooned exponentially way out of control," said Sgt. James Calvino with the Chicago Police Sergeants Association. 

He added that a few migrants trickling into the police station has become dozens at every district. Station floors are at capacity.

"I saw a young boy or girl, two-and-a-half or three years old maybe, laying face first on the dirty terrazzo floor," Calvino said.

He's demanding answers from the city and state, and better conditions for these families. Calvino said stations are not equipped to handle the surge, and his officers aren't either.

Perlman: "How disruptive is this to police work?"

Calvino: "It's a nightmare without a doubt."

He added, "We need to find temporary housing that's actually adequate for humans and not barn animals that we're treating these people like."

Families have been living on donations from good Samaritans, the police themselves and refugee organizations.

Lightfoot said the flood of migrants is expected to increase with more buses arriving as early as Tuesday night.

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