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South Shore residents remain divided on migrants being housed in old school building

Chicago residents fear migrants being housed in former South Shore school
Chicago residents fear migrants being housed in former South Shore school 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) – Title 42, the public health rule restricting migration into the U.S., was set to expire on Thursday and there was already a record increase in new arrivals at the southern border.

In Chicago's South Shore community, neighbors feel it's not a matter of if, but when migrants will move into the old South Shore High School building. After a heated meeting last week, some say it's time to welcome them.

CBS 2's Chris Tye was at the site of a migrant shelter in the Loop with the story.

The shelter is in the shadow of the Dirksen federal building is up and operational. CBS 2 spoke with people who recently arrived from Venezuela and spent their first night in Chicago at the shelter. But the city's plan is to open a temporary holding space in South Shore, which would hold about 200 of the newest arrivals before they're assigned a shelter.

It's a plan many in South Shore oppose.

While many still oppose the plan to place migrants at the old high school, fearing crime spikes and plummeting property values, some closest to the school are now open to the idea.

Katherine Wilkerson-Smith has spent most of her life in a home right across the street from the school. She said for many of her neighbors, the unknown is scary. She's turned to her faith for guidance and said it's time to extend an olive branch to people new to our country, our language and our way of life.

"Let's see what's going to happen," Wilkerson-Smith said. "These people are from a different country. They don't speak the language. Give them a chance! Let's see what's going to happen."

Still, Wilkerson-Smith does have some concerns, namely what happens when people with no family or job just idle outside. She hopes there is a plan in place so that during the hours they are not in the old high school, they aren't just roaming the neighborhood.

The city is promising a large police presence and curfews.

CBS 2 reached out to Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who represents South Shore, for clarity on whether that idling concern is something residents should be worrying about, but did not hear back.

Wilkerson-Smith said she is likely in the minority, and most of her neighbors are still opposed to the migrants moving in. But those closes to the school appear to have accepted the reality of the move.

Late Thursday, some South Shore residents went to court, seeking a temporary restraining order to block the city from opening the center for migrants at the old school.  

The city doesn't have a timeline on when migrants are expected to move into the former school building.

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