Illinois' senior Senator and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin visited asylum-seeking migrants in Chicago in the wake of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sending several buses of migrants to Chicago, the third major city targeted by Abbott's drop-off policy, which Abbott's administration has called "Operation Lone Star."
City officials said that 274 migrants have arrived in Chicago since the first bus from Texas came to Union Station on Aug. 31.
Durbin visited the Salvation Army Freedom Center in Humboldt Park, greeting the migrants and discussing the Chicago area with them while slamming Abbott's policies.
With the controversial program sending asylum-seekers to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago over the last several months, many are wondering how the operation came to fruition and what cities plan to do to respond.
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What is the Policy and When Did It Start?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began Operation Lone Star in April of this year, when he sent a bus of asylum-seekers to Washington, D.C. in protest of President Joe Biden's immigration policy.
The operation stemmed from Abbott’s criticism of the Biden administration’s attempts to lift a Title 42 order that had allowed the U.S. to deny asylum-seekers entry into the country during the COVID pandemic.
According to CNN, the program has cost Texas approximately $12.7 million. Abbott’s office says that the asylum-seekers are only transported after giving written permission, but the network says it is “unclear” what options are presented to those individuals.
Where Have the Buses Been Sent?
In addition to the buses sent to Washington, D.C. in the spring, Abbott later sent buses of migrants to New York City in early August and sent the first bus to Chicago just over a week ago.
“President Biden’s inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans – and Americans – at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” Abbott said in a statement at the time.
Abbott chose the destinations due to their status as "sanctuary cities," which include policies that prohibit officials from asking residents about their immigration status while also refraining from disclosing information to federal authorities.
Under Chicago’s “Welcoming City Ordinance,” officials will not ask about immigration status, nor will it disclose that information to federal authorities. Services will not be denied based on immigration status, according to a document published by the city.
Where Else Could the Buses be Sent?
Abbott's policy has targeted three northern, Democratic-led "sanctuary cities" thus far, though several other large, Democratic-led cities have enacted similar policies.
Large American cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle have implemented similar policies in regards to immigration and are all led by Democratic mayors, making them potential destinations for asylum-seeking migrants under Abbott's policy.
How is Chicago Responding?
Last week, when the first migrants arrived in the city, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her administration was aware of the plan, and that the city was working to find shelter and other services for individuals bused in.
"This is such an important moment for Chicago as our city has been a sanctuary for thousands of newcomers. We are welcoming them and we will not turn our backs on those who need our help the most," Lightfoot said last Wednesday in a statement.
"We understand that many are fleeing violent, traumatic, or otherwise unstable environments," the statement continued. "We will respond with essential services while these individuals navigate the next steps of their journey and our community partners have been working diligently to provide a safety net."
However, a western suburb received a bus of 64 migrants earlier this week without prior notice from city officials, with the village of Burr Ridge accommodating the asylum-seekers on the fly.
"As we sit here today, right now, I have not gotten an official word from the city, from the state, or Cook County," Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso told NBC 5 Thursday in an interview.
In a statement, the village of Burr Ridge confirmed it received 64 refugees Wednesday, which were transported from the Salvation Army Shield of Hope in Chicago. The refugees were ultimately assigned to temporary hotel housing in Burr Ridge.
"Neither village elected officials nor staff were consulted or contacted about this decision and we are now gathering information to keep our community updated."
According to the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois is in charge of transporting migrants and mitigating those efforts.
"These people should not be used as pawns," Grasso said during the interview. "They should get their lives in order, and I'm glad that they are going to start in Burr Ridge."
In a statement, the Illinois Department of Human Services said the state has so far welcomed nearly 300 migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, "most coming to Illinois with only the clothes on their backs."