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Observations and Suggestions for a Better Response to Chicago’s Migrant Crisis

This article was written by John Heiderscheidt and appeared in The Southland Journal: Observations and Suggestions for a Better Response to Chicago’s Migrant Crisis (Chicago, IL) — For several years, I have represented immigrants before USCIS and EOIR – two of the agencies tasked with vetting immigrants to the United States. These agencies routinely decide whether an immigrant has entered lawfully or not, whether the immigrant is entitled to any future or continued status, and whether an immigrant has acted in such a way as to make themselves inadmissible or removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, or companion legislation passed after the INA was signed in to law.

It is no secret that Chicago has seen an influx of between 65,000 and 100,000 migrants, many who are prima facie eligible for asylum under the laws of this country. Still more are parolees – lawfully admitted by Customs and Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In the well-intentioned race to meet the needs of the moment, public officials have allotted almost half a billion dollars subsidizing housing, medical care, food, and other basic humanitarian needs for the new arrivals. At the same time, we see images of migrants sleeping in slum-like squalor, with children dying of disease under the care of the outside companies hired at bloated contract prices to monitor the sanitation and cleanliness of these slum properties.

The Southland Journal has given me the privilege of writing several advocacy pieces in its paper on the topic of immigration. These articles will identify the obvious problems with our nation’s immigration laws and policies, as well as suggest common sense, cost-efficient policy positions our City, County and State may take to protect the rights of Illinois residents while meeting our humanitarian obligations to new arrivals fleeing instability, persecution, violence, torture or some bitter combination thereof.

Generally speaking, cities have no legal authority to deal directly with issues of migration. That right is reserved to the United States Congress in Article I of the United States Constitution. Perhaps you’ve read of SB 4 – the Texas state law that authorizes state officials to enforce immigration law. That law has been put on hold by the Courts – again – and likely will not survive to see itself enforced. This is because it tries to take away a power granted exclusively to the federal government.

Democrats in Washington – including the President – have implemented an “open borders” policy in the last three years – paroling in a significant chunk of otherwise inadmissible immigrants to the United States and turning a blind eye to the scores of other “unaccounted for” unlawful entries without inspection. The federal laws were not written with this intention in mind, and the consequence of this policy decision has come at a significant cost to African-Americans residing in liberal northern cities like Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Public services and tax funds are re-allocated from African-American communities to pay for temporary migrant arrivals, some of whom may not be here more than a week. In essence this serves as a triple hit because inflation has devalued the dollar so significantly in the last four years.

Setting aside the question of how to allocate blame for missteps, fixing the crisis requires a commitment to a series of principled policy positions that fairly reflect our commitment to civil liberty and the rule of law. I offer this framework of policy principles for handling the migrant crisis in Chicago and other municipalities today.

  1. Tax revenues must be spent on the needs of life-long Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago residents before those funds are used to assist new arrivals;
  2. To the greatest extent possible work to preserve family units that constitute “mixed-status” family households.
  3. Sue to have the federal government take direct responsibility for the humanitarian needs of the migrants, including subsidizing / providing direct housing, medical care, food, and other basic humanitarian needs for the new arrivals out of the federal budget;
  4. Prohibit entry of travel vehicles carrying migrants on roadways, train depots, and airports in Illinois if that travel was not directly commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security or an affiliate agency;
  5. Reroute all new arrivals to Washington D.C. upon arrival;
  6. Prohibit the use of City, County, and State tax funds for any arrivals in Chicago entering after a certain date;
  7. To the fullest extent, cooperate with ICE to remove violent criminal offenders from City, County, and State jurisdictions, irrespective of sanctuary edicts, immediately;
  8. Terminate City, County, and State subsidies to migrants after 2024;
  9. Partner with private organizations to meet the remaining needs of new arrivals who have assimilated to life in Chicago and who have a federally cognizable right to remain in the U.S.;
  10. Use federal subsidies to pay residents / private local companies for services that meet the needs of new arrivals, rather than funding politically connected NGOs and out-of-state companies to deliver substandard results at inflated budgetary costs.

The work of fixing our immigration system will not happen overnight. But if our elected officials commit themselves to this framework – and surrounding themselves with competent subject matter experts – we can see rapid improvement on the worst consequences of the migrant crisis in a relatively short window of time, politically speaking. These policy principles will benefit life-long residents and new arrivals equally – addressing the shortcomings of our current responses that all members of the community are feeling.

Chicago Criminal Attorney John Heiderscheidt Comments on the Likelihood of Jail for Trump after Judge Merchan Finds Him in Contempt

Judge Merchan who is presiding over the Trump Hush Money Trial found former President Donald Trump in contempt for violating the Court’s gag order in the case. Trump’s lawyers have argued the gag order is Constitutionally impermissible. For the first time, on record, Judge Merchan warned the former President that jail could be a consequence of continued willful violations of the gag order.

The violations of the gag order center around social media tweets the President has made about potential witnesses and, at times, court personnel. “This highlights a situation where the client doesn’t want to follow the rules a Court puts in place for trial,” said Chicago Criminal and Immigration Attorney John Heiderscheidt.

“Because this situation hasn’t happened before, we really don’t have much in the way of binding precedent to help the Court figure out how to handle the situation. Although jail has been mentioned by the Court, it seems an extraordinary step. I doubt the Court would do more than something symbolic, like a temporary hold in a courthouse cell for a few hours. But even a symbolic hold would be enormously impactful from a political and precedential perspective.”  

Chicago Criminal Attorney Questions the Helpfulness of McDougal Evidence in Hush Money Trial

Today David Pecker testified to the jury regarding former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Mr. Pecker described buying Ms. McDougal’s story for $150,000 and disguising the payment as a deal for other services, effectively concealing what may have been an illegal donation to Mr. Trump’s campaign. Under questioning from prosecutors, Mr. Pecker acknowledged that this type of arrangement — in which a corporation was spending money to influence the election — was unlawful.

“Pecker’s testimony gives jurors an alternate theory for why Trump participated in a “catch and kill” transaction – for personal rather than campaign benefit. It is also unclear how the law will support a conviction where the alleged underlying conduct  complained of is not criminal in nature,” said John Heiderscheidt.

Chicago Criminal Attorney John Heiderscheidt Comments on Opening Statements in Trump Hush Money Trial

The opening statements for the trial concerning former President Donald Trump and the 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels have begun. 

The State spoke for almost ten minutes longer than the Defense. At issue in the case is whether Trump’s payments to Stormy Daniels through Lawyer Michael Cohen were legal expenses or unlawful campaign contributions. The Southern District of New York declined to prosecute this case while Trump was President, though CNN legal analysts offered opinions qualifying why that may have been. 

One major question to be answered is whether Trump will testify. The Judge made preliminary evidentiary rulings that will help the State’s cross examination of Trump should he testify in his own defense. Trump predictably blasted the motives of the prosecutor and decried the underpinnings of the case as a hoax. 

“I don’t envy the position Trump’s lawyers face,” said John Heiderscheidt, a Chicago Criminal Attorney. “At heart this will come down to the jury’s analysis of intent. Do you put him on and risk all the negatives from the civil rape and fraud cases on cross? Or do you just say they can’t make their burden because Michael Cohen is a liar and hope the jury overlooks his non-testimony? It is a very close strategy call, made more difficult by the prejudicial material the Judge would admit on cross examination.” 

The State’s first witness took the stand for approximately 30 minutes, but testimony was cut short due to an alternate juror’s dental appointment. The parties expect trial to last several weeks. 

Migrant Evictions in Chicago

Chicago has recently been grappling with the eviction of migrants from city and state-operated shelters. These are just the latest challenges migrants are facing. This situation raises serious questions about the future of these individuals and the city’s capacity to handle this crisis.

In an attempt to control the influx of migrants, City officials introduced a policy limiting shelter stays to 60 days. After this period, migrants are required to find other housing or apply for another shelter at the city’s “landing zone” for new arrivals. This policy was enforced after several delays, including bad weather and staffing issues, and the city began evicting migrants from shelters in March. Officials estimate that 2,026 migrants will be evicted from shelters by the end of April.

Migrants have been coming to Chicago since August 2022 as part of a busing strategy initiated by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Chicago, along with New York City and Denver, has struggled to meet the demand for housing and social services due to the influx of migrants.

The migrant shelter evictions in Chicago highlight the complexities of managing migration in urban areas. While the city struggles with this issue, the migrants who came in search of a better life now face an uncertain future in the city they hoped to call home.

Chicago Immigration Attorney John Heiderscheidt Comments on Migrant Website’s Murky Details Surrounding $300 Million Funding

Although the City of Chicago has a website dedicated to monitoring how nearly $300 million is being spent on the migrant crisis, it seems as though details are still murky as to how the city is spending that money. The details of how the money is being spent remain a mystery due to how the city is handling the migrant crisis. The City of Chicago has outsourced a majority of operations and staffing to private companies.

Favorite Healthcare Staffing, a healthcare staffing agency based in Kansas, has been paid more than $206 million. Equitable Social Solutions, a Kentucky-based organization that partners with cities such as Chicago to help locate housing for migrants, was paid $45 million.

Missing from the website, which was put together by Mayor Johnson’s administration, are details regarding how much profit these companies are making. Documents like leasing contracts and how much developers and building owners are making off of allowing the city to convert their buildings into shelters are noticeably absent from the website.

Attorney Heiderscheidt included his thoughts on the situation saying, “The City has badly handled this crisis and it should be turned over to federal authorities, as the law requires.”


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