“How dare you?”
That was the first reaction Cata Truss, a 57-year-old mother on the West Side of Chicago, had when she found out who was behind the push to turn her neighborhood park into a shelter for migrants: Democrats she helped elect.
“All these people, I have supported every one of them,” she says about Mayor Brandon Johnson and his progressive allies. “I was like, ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ ”
There was no way she was going to let Amundsen Park—what she calls “the crown jewel of the community”—go to the newly arrived migrants from the Mexican border. Especially not when there were black Chicagoans who needed the space, which she says kept her five sons “out of trouble” and busy playing football when they were young.
“There’s a humanitarian crisis in the black community,” said Truss. “But every time we have a need in our community, we’re told that there are no funds. There’s no money for us.”
Truss and other black residents told me that Chicago, which calls itself a “welcoming city,” has been very welcoming—just not to them. Since August 2022, Chicago has greeted nearly 35,000 new arrivals with resources like laundry services, mental health screenings, and $15,000 in rental support per person—all funds that Truss says could’ve gone a long way in Amundsen Park in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, where nearly 28 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
So last October, a day before the field house was set to become a migrant shelter, Truss raced to the local courthouse, along with three of her neighbors—plus the head of the local NAACP chapter for moral support. For the next two and a half hours, she drafted a lawsuit in a notebook, then ripped out the pages and handed them to a clerk. Her argument, handwritten in pen, was that the field house was “designated for recreational use within the community,” not housing noncitizens. One of her co-plaintiffs, Gerald K. Harris, runs the football program at the field house that trained her five sons.
“I was like, ‘bring it on,’ ” she says. “Let’s fight.”