Chicago migrants from Venezuela are facing a difficult decision as the city struggles to support the growing number of illegal immigrants. Michael Castejon, who migrated with his wife and stepdaughter in search of a better life, is one of many considering moving back to Venezuela.
"We came here hoping for a better future, but it's been months and we haven't been able to find a stable place to live or work," Castejon shared. "The American Dream seems out of reach for us."
According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, as the temperature drops and the city's resources become depleted, more and more migrants are looking for ways to leave Chicago. Some are requesting tickets to other cities, while others are even considering returning to their home country.
For Castejon, the decision to return to Venezuela was not an easy one, but the thought of living on the streets during the cold winter months was too much to bear. "How many more months of living in the streets will it take? No, no more. It's better that I leave. At least I have my mother back home," he said.
Castejon is not alone in his sentiments. Many migrants who were once hopeful for a better life in the US are now realizing that the reality is far from their expectations. Some feel they were misled about the ease of obtaining asylum and work permits, while others acknowledge the strain that the influx of illegal immigrants has placed on the city's resources.
"We didn't know things would be this hard. I thought the process was faster," Castejon shared.
Since August 2022, over 19,000 migrants from Venezuela have arrived in Chicago, adding to the already high number of homeless citizens, which has reached over 68,000. As the migrant crisis continues to worsen, city officials are struggling to find solutions and are even debating Chicago's status as a "sanctuary city" for immigrants.
"We're spending a lot of money every single day. I think up to $40 million a month, ladies and gentlemen," 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale stated during a Chicago City Council meeting in November.
The city has been forced to house migrants in various locations, including O'Hare Airport, police stations, and youth sports fields. However, many are still left with nowhere to go and are forced to sleep on the streets, despite freezing temperatures.
"We just want to be home. If we're going to be sleeping on the streets here, we'd rather be sleeping on the streets back home," Castejon said.
As the situation in Chicago continues to deteriorate, city officials are under immense pressure to find a solution that benefits both the migrants and the city's residents. For now, the future remains uncertain for Chicago's migrant population, and many, like Castejon, are left with no choice but to return to their home country.