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Migrant abuse by Chicago police 'disturbs' Catholic advocates

Internal investigation underway after claims one or more officers had sexual relations with migrants housed in a police station
Photograph showing Chicago city's 10th District (Ogden) police station

Photograph showing Chicago city's 10th District (Ogden) police station. (Photo: Public Building Commission of Chicago)

Published: July 18, 2023 06:20 AM GMT

A Catholic immigration advocate group told OSV News it is "disturbed by allegations of migrant abuse by law enforcement in Chicago."

The Chicago Police Department acknowledged July 6 that an internal investigation is underway regarding claims one or more officers from the city's 10th District (Ogden) had sexual relations with migrants temporarily being housed in the station.

The admission followed a complaint received earlier that day by the city's Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Anna Marie Gallagher, executive director of CLINIC (the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) based in Silver Spring, Maryland, told OVS News in an email that "sadly, we know all too well the dangers that vulnerable individuals face when seeking refuge in the United States."

"Catholic social teaching reminds us that every life is deserving of dignity and respect," said Gallagher. "We will continue to advocate for conditions in which migrants and refugees are met with open arms, safety, and respect."

No details about the migrants -- including their ages and genders -- or the police officers allegedly involved in the matter have yet been released.

For several weeks, migrants bused to Chicago from the U.S.-Mexico border have sought shelter in police stations, as the city has struggled to find housing for them.

Chicago Alderman and public safety committee chair Brian Hopkins on July 11 told COPA, Chicago's police accountability office, to expedite its investigation, noting "it would be damaging to everyone if this takes months and months."

Yet, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, John Catanzara Jr., pushed back at the allegations, telling local media July 11 "the fact that no officer has been relieved (of) police powers speaks volumes; that means COPA, the department, the superintendent all know that these allegations are 99% likely false."

OSV News was told by an officer at the Ogden station, who declined to give her name, that as of July 17, no migrants are currently being sheltered there. The officer confirmed a "rotating number" of migrants had been housed inside the facility previously, but could not provide an approximate number or the exact dates when the migrants had stayed or when they had departed.

According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration, irregular migration -- usually undertaken in response to violence, poverty and natural disasters -- places women, girls and LGBTQ+ persons at disproportionately higher risk for gender-based violence, including human trafficking.

Both the Chicago Police Department and the Archdiocese of Chicago declined OSV News' requests for comment.

OSV News has contacted COPA for an update on the complaint and is awaiting a response.

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