Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sparked controversy due to a program designed to bus asylum-seekers to northern "sanctuary cities," and on Wednesday he said one of those transports arrived in the city of Chicago.
Abbott’s office announced that the asylum-seekers were dropped off at Chicago’s Union Station, saying that Chicago will join Washington, D.C. and New York as a location for his administration’s “drop off policy.”
“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.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says her administration was aware of the plan, and that they are working to find shelter and other services for individuals bused to the city. An estimated 60 asylum-seekers were transported to the city, according to Lightfoot's office.
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“Chicago is and will continue to be a welcoming city,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “We are collaborating across various city departments and with local, state and community partners to ensure everyone who arrives in Chicago is greeted and treated with dignity and respect.”
Earlier this year, Abbott’s administration began to hire charter buses to transport asylum-seekers to Washington, D.C. New York was added to that equation earlier this month, and Chicago has now been identified as a location for drop-offs to take place due to its status as a “sanctuary city,” according to Abbott’s office.
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.
Washington, D.C. and New York have enacted similar policies.
Lightfoot blasted Abbott's administration for lacking "shame or humanity" because of the program.
"As a city, we are doing everything we can to ensure these immigrants and their families can receive shelter, food, and most importantly protection," her office said. "This is not new; Chicago welcomes hundreds of migrants every year to our city and provides much-needed assistance. Unfortunately, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is without any shame or humanity. But ever since he put these racist practices of expulsion in place, we have been working with our community partners to ready the city to receive these individuals."
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.
Estimates vary on how many individuals have been transported through the program, with most putting the number between 8,000 and 9.000.
New York’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Manuel Castro blasted the program, saying that it is stoking “anti-Latino hatred” in Texas and the rest of the country.
“The treatment they are receiving in Texas is to be condemned,” he told Yahoo! News. “(He is) using human beings to create anti-immigrant and anti-Latino hatred.”
Lightfoot’s office says that city agencies are working to put together temporary “shelter and support solutions,” and said that they are eager to help “families who are seeking a better future away from harm and violence in their home countries.”
The Biden Administration has not commented directly on the program, but officials in both Washington and New York have called on the federal government to provide assistance and to help coordinate efforts to help those being bused from Texas.