CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Texas has informed Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker that the state must prepare for up to 25 buses a day full of migrants who illegally crossed the southern border into the United States.
Texas border cities have been busing migrants to self-declared “sanctuary cities” such as Chicago and New York City for months.
According to NBC Chicago, Beatriz Ponce de Leon, the deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights in Chicago, said that the buses could potentially bring in 1,250 migrants a day.
Pritzker has blamed Republican governors in southern states for overwhelming Chicago’s resources, even though the Democrat mayor of El Paso, Texas, sent two buses to the city last week.
“[Texas Gov. Greg Abbott] needs to listen to the cities that he’s sending folks to and start thinking about whether or not this should be spread across the country. Why is he not sending anybody to Idaho, Wyoming?” Pritzker asked.
Abbott began busing migrants to Chicago after former Mayor Lori Lightfoot made the “sanctuary city” declaration in 2021 in response to former President Donald Trump’s goal to build a wall along the Texas border.
Lightfoot was one of several mayors who vowed not to enforce federal immigration laws after Trump signed legislation to withhold federal grants from communities that shielded undocumented migrants from deportation.
According to the city’s Sanctuary City Ordinance, Chicago authorities do not ask an individual’s immigration status or report noncitizens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Abbott has said that his state’s infrastructure is being strained by supporting thousands of migrants who arrive through the Texas border each day. Estimates by Customs and Border Protection place that number at about 2.8 million in 2023, up from 2.2 million in 2022.
“To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C. and New York City as an additional drop-off location,” Abbott said in 2021. “Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”
Abbott has since cited the Biden administration’s border policies for encouraging migrants to circumvent legal immigration ports of entry.
Under U.S. immigration rules, immigrants seeking asylum in America are required to wait in their home country for 150 days after submitting their application for a work permit.
The migrants arriving in the Chicago area have bypassed the country’s legal immigration system.
Now, Pritzker is asking communities outside of Chicago to take in some of the continuing influx of non-citizen migrants. To encourage other cities in the Chicago region to take in the migrants, Pritzker announced $41.5 million in grants to pay for shelter and housing support, food, legal support, and health care.
Residents of some Chicago communities are calling it unfair that the city is allocating resources to transplant undocumented migrants into their neighborhoods at the expense of long-time residents.
Current Mayor Brandon Johnson estimated it will cost more than $300 million to house and care for migrants through the end of the year. So far, the state has received $38 million in reimbursements from the federal government.
“Let me state this clearly, the city of Chicago can not go on welcoming new arrivals safely and capably without significant support and immigration policy changes,” Johnson has said.
The city plans to house thousands of migrants in military-grade tents this winter. Currently, migrant arrivals have overwhelmed the city’s housing resources, and often spend the night sleeping on the floor of police stations, the YMCA, airports, or unused schools in Chicago.
Pritzker sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday, asking for federal help.
“Governors and mayors from border states have shipped people to our state like cargo in a dehumanizing attempt to score political points. The people of Illinois are kind and generous. We believe in the fundamental right of every human, especially those facing persecution, to find refuge and live with dignity in this great country of ours. But as the numbers being transported to Chicago are accelerating, the humanitarian crisis is overwhelming our ability to provide aid to the refugee population,” Pritzker said.
“Unfortunately, the welcome and aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government,” he continued. “Most critically, the federal government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois.”
“Allowing just one state to lay the burden upon a certain few states run by Democrats is untenable,” he wrote. “We are a nation that has welcomed immigrants and refugees since our founding, and we have done so in a bipartisan manner. It cannot be that just a few cities and states should now bear the cost of this effort alone.”
Chicago and Illinois taxpayers have set aside $94 million for migrant housing, and the state has budgeted $550 million for migrant health care, but authorities say there is no end in sight to the arrivals and critics say the cost will fall on taxpayers.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday it will waive 26 federal laws to allow border wall construction in Starr County, Texas, which is experiencing “high illegal entry.”
“The construction project reported today was appropriated during the prior administration in 2019 and the law requires the government to use these funds for this purpose, which we announced earlier this year. We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money but it has not done so and we are compelled to follow the law,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
During his presidency, Trump diverted billions in defense and military construction funds toward building a wall, a central focus of the former president’s 2016 campaign. He was then forced to use emergency powers instead after Congress refused to fully fund the project.
Shortly into his administration in 2021, Biden canceled the state of emergency Trump declared on the southern border and later slashed projects to build the wall.
“President Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform since his first day in office. Without the help of Congress, the Administration has been taking action: since May 12, we have removed or returned over a quarter million individuals,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a statement.
Last month, the Biden administration made a major strategic shift at the border and extended temporary protection status for nearly half a million Venezuelan nations currently residing in the United States. The move came amid Democratic leaders’ growing pressure on the White House to take more action regarding asylum-seekers.
The designation protects Venezuelans from removal, making it easier for those who came to the U.S. to get employment authorization, a repeated request from some Democrats who have pushed the Biden administration to speed up the process for asylum-seekers to get a work permit.
The White House also recently sent an additional 800 troops to help with the migration influx at the southern border.
The Department of Defense has already deployed around 2,500 state National Guard personnel, in addition to around 24,000 Customers and Border Protection agents and officers and 2,600 non-uniformed officers, the White House said last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.