During an update Wednesday alongside Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an emergency disaster proclamation in an effort to assist the state with resources as Texas continues to bus groups of migrants to Chicago.
The proclamation allows for 75 members Illinois' National Guard to "ensure all state resources are available to support asylum seekers arriving nearly daily to Chicago from the State of Texas," an announcement from the Pritzker's office said.
According to the announcement, the declaration allows the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to coordinate with other state agencies and local governments, including Cook County and the City of Chicago, to "ensure the individuals and families receive the assistance they need," including transportation, emergency shelter and housing, food, health and medical screenings and assessments and more.
"Illinois is a welcoming beacon of hope for all who are seeking a home and stability here," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton in a statement. "The asylum seekers arriving to our state deserve care, compassion, and dignity, because that is what any person pursuing a better life for themselves and their families would want. We will stand with them by continuing efforts to provide the care and services they need to move forward.”
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In addition to to issuing a proclamation Wednesday, Pritzker's office also stated that Texas has been transporting asylum-seeking families and individuals to Illinois with "no advance notice and with no coordination with the state of Illinois or the City of Chicago."
"The buses have been directed to drop their passengers at Union Station in Downtown Chicago despite requests from State and City officials that travelers be brought to Welcome Centers," Pritzker's office said. "Gov. Pritzker has repeatedly called on Texas to treat these asylum seekers with dignity, to open the lines of communication with his office, and to stop trying to manufacture chaos for political purposes."
Since Wednesday, Aug. 31, the city of Chicago says it has received approximately 364 migrants via bus from Texas as part of Gov. Greg Abbott's controversial policy that sends migrants off to northern "sanctuary' cities.
The first group of migrants arrived in Chicago last month, 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.
"We understand that many are fleeing violent, traumatic, or otherwise unstable environments," Lightfoot said in a 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, last week, several buses of migrants were transported to two different suburbs soon after arriving in the city, a move that mayors from both of those villages say they were unaware of.
Here's a breakdown of what we know about the policy, and how Chicago is involved and more.
What is the Policy and When Did It Start?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began the "drop-off" policy 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."
Similarly, in northwest suburban Elk Grove Village last week, a bus of 90 asylum-seekers arrived, but the village's mayor said he wasn't afforded much time — or notice — to prepare for their arrival.
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."