The City of Chicago and nonprofit organizations are mobilizing to provide temporary shelter and other services to dozens of migrants who arrived by bus Wednesday from Texas, according to city officials.
For weeks, there had been rumors that migrants arriving at the Texas border would be sent on charter buses to Chicago, as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” border security initiative.
Abbott tweeted on Wednesday that the “first Texas bus of migrants has arrived in Chicago,” and that President Biden’s “inaction at our border puts Texans at risk [and] is overwhelming our communities.” He said in a statement that the migrants were dropped off at Union Station Wednesday night.
“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 the statement. “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.”
The mayor’s office released a statement on Wednesday evening, saying about 60 migrants arrived in Chicago.
“Chicago is a welcoming city and as such has collaborated across various departments and agencies to ensure we greeted [the migrants] with dignity and respect,” the statement read.
City officials said they are doing everything they can to “ensure these immigrants and their families can receive shelter, food, and most importantly protection…. Texas [Gov.] 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.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, said earlier on Wednesday although the full City Council was not informed of the migrants’ arrival, some aldermen “who have taken an interest in issues related to immigration” were contacted by city and state agencies.
“Many of these individuals have been through a very arduous journey,” he said. “Many of them have been disconnected from family and friends and have very little resources at this point in time.”
Ramirez-Rosa added that Abbott, a Republican up for reelection this November, is busing migrants to Chicago and other sanctuary cities “to create a spectacle, to make a political point.”
The state of Illinois has also been involved in discussions about the migrants’ arrival, with officials having learned last Friday that asylum seekers were enroute to the state. Officials said most of the migrants come from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and that upon arrival, they will receive health screenings, emergency housing and resettlement help.
A spokesman for Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement to WBEZ, “Illinois welcomes refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, and we are working with federal and city officials to ensure that these individuals are treated with respect and safety as they look to connect with their family and friends.”
According to a CNN report, Texas has spent more than $12 million to transport migrants outside the state.For weeks, some Chicago nonprofits, churches and immigrant rights groups have seen a trickle of migrants who were sent from Texas.
Brandon Lee, director of communications for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said some asylum seekers have shown up at the organization’s office downtown, carrying documents from border patrol agents in Texas that list addresses of immigrant advocate groups and other organizations in Chicago.
Neither Ramirez-Rosa nor the Mayor’s Office would provide the location of where the migrants are temporarily housed or where they would be assisted by city agencies and local groups.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.