CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — The State of Illinois will invest $160 million to create a welcome center, a winterized shelter site, and fund rental assistance, legal services, and work permits for over 24,000 (and growing) migrants who have arrived in Chicago from the southern border.
As announced Thursday by Gov. JB Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Human Services plans to spend $30 million to construct an intake center and landing zone where migrants will be processed.
An additional $65 million will be used to create a winterized shelter site to provide temporary housing for 2,000 people for six months.
The state will also spend $65 million to fund case management, legal services, work permit processing, and rental assistance.
The plan comes after the State said it analyzed bottlenecks in the system for migrant arrivals, which has led to backlogs, resulting in migrants sleeping at police stations, airports, and other overflow shelters.
At a press conference on Thursday, Pritzker said Illinois taxpayers are shouldering the burden of a federal problem.
Under U.S. immigration law, foreign nationals seeking asylum in America are required to wait in their home country for 150 days after submitting their application for a work permit.
“With Congress likely unwilling to act, and with lives of innocent people at stake, the hurdles we face seem far beyond the scope of any one state – and yet, everything we can do, we must do,” said Pritzker. “Today I am laying out a comprehensive data-driven plan to improve the response to this humanitarian crisis and amplify the effectiveness of our investments with the end goal of moving asylum seekers out of our system of care and on to independence.”
Buses carrying over 24,000 migrants, who illegally crossed the southern border of the U.S., have arrived in Chicago this year after the city declared itself a “sanctuary city” in 2021.
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), which would deport them to their home countries.
The declaration, made by Democratic former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, was in response to former President Donald Trump’s goal to build a wall along the Texas border. In response, southern governors began sending buses of migrants to Chicago and other self-declared “sanctuary cities” nationwide.
The Governor also said Thursday that he considered caring for migrants as a humanitarian mission, saying, “They are cold, so we will keep them warm.”
However, the announcement of new funding comes with several policy changes, including reducing the amount of rental assistance for migrants from six months to three, and intensifying case management so non-citizens transfer quicker to support themselves.
So far, Pritzker said the State of Illinois has spent $478 in taxpayer dollars to meet the needs of the migrants.
The Governor sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting federal support, and said he continues to be in constant contact with the White House.