The migrant crisis is clear and present. It’s heartbreaking to see families with little kids struggling to cope with the Chicago winter while trying to piece their life back together in a strange new world. We have to do what we can to help the situation.
Locally, we have options but no consensus on the best approach forward. I want to clarify my positions and their rationale as an elected representative and as a private citizen.
On Oct. 30, the Oak Park Village Board unanimously approved $300,000 toward local migrant relief efforts. I voted in favor of this as it was $150,000 in grant money from the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, matched by the village using surplus American Rescue Plan Act dollars (federal money and not local tax dollars).
On Oct. 31, a day after the board acted in good faith to contribute to the solution, community organizers bused 100+ migrants to the Oak Park police station late at night with no warning or coordination. The community organizers took a page out of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s playbook to “ambush” the village. Our good-faith efforts just the previous night was taken advantage of. Continuing to react to this escalation in good faith risks further escalation. This puts us on an open-ended path with no outcome in sight.
I applaud our village staff’s efforts this week. I supported the temporary emergency declaration to provide Village Manager Kevin Jackson the flexibility to address the immediate needs within an approved budget and set timeline.
Locally, we have a persistent homelessness crisis that remains unaddressed and many residents in our community are struggling to remain in Oak Park due to high taxation. Our police and fire departments are short-staffed with community safety often at risk. Hence as a local elected official, addressing the migrant crisis with local tax payer dollars or deploying local village staff time at the expense of serving our community is a disservice to my constituents.
I also believe that the migrant crisis is a federal issue that cannot be solved locally.
Private citizens and community organizations have done a commendable job over the last several weeks. These efforts must continue and expand with local governments connecting private voluntary actions with evolving needs as we wait for federal interventions.
So while I have and will continue to contribute personally, I am not supportive of local tax dollars or village resources deployed under these circumstances.
Ravi Parakkat is an Oak Park village trustee.