Vallas: Mayor, supporters see unlimited migration as fix to population loss

Vallas: Mayor, supporters see unlimited migration as fix to population loss

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson sees unlimited migration as a solution to population loss. What he should be doing is recognizing crime and a lack of quality school choice is driving out families.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s recent comments about Chicago’s population loss tell you everything you need to know about his priorities and how he views the city’s challenges.

“The lack [of] affordable housing, loss of jobs, and closed schools and mental health clinics that have impacted many of Chicago’s communities [have] disproportionately hurt Black Chicagoans in particular,” Johnson said in a statement about recent U.S. Census Bureau findings.

He thinks population loss is rooted in racism and historic disinvestment. He sees unlimited migration as a solution. And that’s where he’s wrong in his rhetoric, his policies and his budget priorities. Johnson fails to recognize the role crime and a lack of quality school choice has played in driving out families.

It’s true that during the past 20 years, Chicago has seen the largest exodus of Black residents of any major city. The Black exodus consists overwhelmingly of middle-income families with school-age children. It is the result of unsafe neighborhoods and a lack of alternatives to failing, underenrolled schools. Johnson, his former Chicago Teachers Union employers and his City Council allies aim to defund the Chicago Police Department, demonize its officers and get rid of public school choice.

When it comes to the police, several policies are worsening Chicago’s crime epidemic. Johnson has eliminated 833 positions. His rhetoric and policies treat even dangerous criminals as victims. His administration restrains and often punishes proactive policing. While murders and shootings are down in major cities, Chicago leads the nation in both school-age youth murders and mass shootings. If Chicago were a state, it would be second only to California in mass shootings.

Meanwhile, violent crime continues to rise and is likely underreported. Police shortages mean there are no CPD vehicles available to respond to over half of all “high priority” 911 calls. This is up from 19% in 2019, before Mayor Lori Lightfoot damaged police capabilities by eliminating 614 positions and failing to fill most vacancies.

When it comes to education, tens of thousands of poor and middle-class families have left to seek better public schools. The CTU’s strikes, threatened work stoppages, forced 77-week COVID closures and systematic degrading of school choices are to blame. Between 2019 and 2023, district enrollment declined by over 32,000 students, or 9%.

Johnson and his appointed school board seek to inflict further damage by supporting CTU demands: they want to phase out public charter and selective enrollment schools. Never mind these are the only alternative for many families to their inadequate neighborhood schools. Charter school enrollment is 98% Black and Latino. Over 70% of selective enrollment school enrollment is minority.

Johnson’s commentary about migrants explains why he supports Chicago’s sanctuary city policy that has made it a mecca for migrants. The policy is virtually a blank check; it has cost the city over $400 million and the state almost five times that amount. This massive cost undermines any ability of the state or the city to invest in poor Black and Latino communities.

Johnson also claims “it is likely that the data inputs are not current enough to reflect the rebound of international migration and the recent inflow of asylum seekers.” While Johnson conveniently blames Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whom he calls a “white racist” determined to destroy Democratic cities led by Black mayors, it’s clear Johnson and his Socialist supporters are welcoming unlimited migration with their rhetoric and using taxpayers’ check books to do it.

Johnson’s chief benefactor, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates, is a strong supporter of Chicago’s sanctuary city status. She has played into Johnson’s embrace of unlimited migration. CTU leadership obviously sees migration as the solution to the school district’s steady enrollment decline. Enrollment has dropped more than 20% during the past 20 years.

The district’s enrollment decline halted this year; a huge influx of migrant children caused a slight increase of 1,200 students. Somewhere between 9,000 and 17,000 migrant students have enrolled, depending on who’s counting. Meanwhile, CTU and the district go to great lengths to make schools and, thus, the city more attractive to migrants. CTU is demanding $2,000 be given to each migrant to help with academics, transportation and mental health counseling.

It is important for Chicago’s residents and taxpayers to clearly understand what is happening: Johnson and his allies continue to see unlimited migration as the solution for the city’s population loss. They ignore the real solutions: safe streets and quality schools.

All this will hurt poor Black and Latino families the most: the hindrance of police capacity to keep communities safe, the gradual elimination of public-school choice and the blank check being written to advance the agenda of Johnson’s Socialist allies.

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