A Humanitarian Concern Over Migrants Housed at Chicago O’Hare Airport

In recent times, the city of Chicago has been grappling with a growing population of asylum seekers arriving by plane. The city's response to this crisis has been to house hundreds of these migrants at O’Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports. This decision, however, has raised significant safety and public health concerns.


The Situation at O’Hare

Hidden behind a heavy black curtain in the airport's Terminal 1 is a makeshift shelter where hundreds of migrants, ranging from babies to the elderly, are currently living. They sleep on cardboard pads on the floor and share airport bathrooms. Their movements are monitored by a private firm hired by the city. The space they occupy is far smaller than a city block and can house up to 500 people simultaneously. Sickness spreads quickly in these cramped conditions, and the staffing company provides limited first aid and calls ambulances when necessary.

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The Challenges

Chicago offers meals to the migrants, but only at specific times, and many of the foods are unfamiliar to the new arrivals. Donations of food and clothing at O’Hare are limited due to airport security concerns. The city has struggled to find longer-term housing solutions for these asylum seekers. Some migrants stay at O’Hare for weeks before being moved to police stations or managing to get into the few shelters available. The city plans to roll out winterized tents within weeks.

The Bigger Picture

Most of the 14,000 immigrants who have arrived in Chicago during the last year have come from Texas, largely under the direction of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. As more migrants arrived, the city's existing services were strained. The situation at O’Hare highlights the city's haphazard response to this crisis and underscores the need for more help from state and federal governments. It also raises concerns about the treatment of people fleeing violence and poverty.



The situation at O’Hare International Airport is a stark reminder of the challenges cities face in dealing with an influx of asylum seekers. It underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform and better support systems for those seeking refuge. As we continue to monitor this situation, it is crucial that we advocate for humane treatment and adequate resources for all individuals seeking asylum.

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