Governor signs disaster declaration, calls up National Guard to assist with migrants bused from Texas

Governor JB Pritzker is signing a disaster declaration to secure resources for refugees traveling from Texas to Illinois and has deployed 75 National Guard members to assist with the logistics of receiving migrants, he announced Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference, Pritzker again criticized his Texas counterpart, Governor Greg Abbott, for failing to coordinate or communicate with Illinois and Chicago officials and ridiculed his actions as “stunts”. .

“I am not going to mince words here: the governor of Texas is forcing New York and (Washington) DC and Chicago and potentially elsewhere a last-minute and complicated process that is a heartless display of politics on the people. It is,” said Pritzker. “Why not give proper notice? Why just send these people to the Blue City or the Blue State? Why isn’t Abbott sending the refugees to Mississippi or Oklahoma or Idaho? It’s about politics to them.”

Pritzker said the migrants are in the country legally as asylum seekers and many trekked for months to reach the US border to escape persecution and persecution. But upon arrival, Pritzker said, they were put on buses and thrown into the “Dead of Night” at Chicago’s Union Station.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot described the situation as a “crisis created by ambush” and accused the Abbott administration of tricking migrants into boarding buses.

“Frankly, I believe they have been misled and the only option they are presented with by people in Texas is a free bus ride, as they do not provide any other option. are,” Lightfoot said. “This is again a well-planned plan to create chaos in Democratic-controlled cities. Make no mistake about it.”

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Lightfoot said that since August 31, when the first bus load of asylum seekers arrived, about 500 migrants have arrived in Chicago. He expects this number to increase.

Pritzker said he would seek all available federal aid, while Lightfoot suggested that federal aid should be moved from Texas to other places that are welcoming migrants.

“Any dollar that goes to the state of Texas … every single one of those dollars needs to be reinvested in cities like Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC,” Lightfoot said. “We shouldn’t and don’t want taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for this kind of harsh, inhumane treatment on the part of someone who is running down the aisle for a political stunt. Get those money back.” We need to program and come to us.”

Meanwhile, Pritzker said the Illinois attorney general and the city of Chicago attorneys, among other agencies, are investigating “criminal liability” for Abbott’s actions.

“We are still investigating and interviewing people who have come to Illinois and are listening to their stories about whether they volunteered on these buses, knew where they were going, gave them information. was granted,” Pritzker said, emphasizing the word “voluntarily.”

He said that although it appeared that the migrants signed the waiver before boarding the buses, they could not understand what they were doing and asked Abbott’s administration to absolve themselves of the liability. not the proper way”.

Shortly after the news conference began, Abbott tweeted part of a recent Fox News interview in which he said he was “helping our local communities on the border.”

Abbott vowed that waves of asylum seekers would continue to arrive in cities like Chicago.

“The mayors of the sanctuary city complain that they are overwhelmed by the few dozen migrants arriving in buses from Texas,” Abbott wrote. “This is a fraction of what Texas faces on a daily basis. We will continue to (bus) migrants until Biden secures the border.

Local officials said the 11th bus from Texas arrived Tuesday night. Earlier on Friday, more than 100 people reached Union Station in Chicago from Texas in two buses.

Some members of the group said they were from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Most boarded the CTA buses awaiting their arrival, while a few others waited at Union Station for other accommodations.

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Friday’s group was at least the fourth round of asylum-seeking migrants in the past two weeks to arrive from Texas, part of Abbott’s exercise, which is just arriving at the Texas-Mexico border in northern cities including New York and Washington, D.C. was for migrants.

Chicago Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday that it is not aware of an influx of new students as a result of groups of immigrants from Texas, but the district is prepared for them if they enroll.

“We are well equipped and committed to serving every new student, including students who have moved with their families from Central and South America in recent weeks. Enrolled refugees from Ukraine and established systems to welcome any families,” the CPS said in its statement.

The first group of migrants deported from Texas arrived at Union Station on August 31 in two asylum-seeking buses carrying about 75 people. Another bus of migrants arrived in Chicago over the holiday weekend, with more than 50 people looking for a fresh start. And more than 150 asylum seekers arrived in three more buses early last week.

Many people disembarking buses from Texas carry the same clear plastic bags containing their paperwork and small personal items.

Lightfoot’s office said the next step was to take Friday’s group to a religious organization in CTA buses. The city has taken previous groups to shelter in the Salvation Army Shield of Hope and even sent some to the suburbs for temporary housing, to which the city has received some backlash.

The countryside city said in a statement on its website on Monday that 40 Venezuelan migrants, mostly women and children, had arrived in the southwest suburb – but “neither the mayor nor any city official was informed in advance was gone,” and none of the city’s resources will be used. to give them a home. Still, its mayor Sean McDermott got a shout-out to the Pritzker on Wednesday for “welcoming families seeking refuge in their community.”

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Northwest suburban Elk Grove Village had two buses carrying 90 migrants on Saturday, and Mayor Craig Johnson said he was informed of their arrival on Friday afternoon, but had several questions about logistics. He said cities and states should work closely with suburban mayors to arrange for a more organized transition for people coming to the area.

Last week, 64 migrants were placed in temporary hotel accommodation in southwest suburban Burr Ridge, and the village was not consulted or contacted ahead of time about their arrival, according to a statement from Mayor Gary Grasso.

The governor’s office said the disaster declaration enables coordination between state, city and county governments to provide assistance to migrants, including transportation, emergency shelter, food, health checks and medical treatment.

Pritzker and Lightfoot vowed frequent and open communication with all local governments, although Pritzker flagged some of the complaints as “rave”.

“I know there are some who are grumbling and upset that hotels or motels in their communities are opening their doors to strangers in need, arguing that they have received less notice,” Pritzker said. “So let’s talk about the challenges facing the city and state of Chicago. Remember, the governor of the state of Texas is choosing not to notify the city or state when he is sending bus loads of families.

Pritzker also took up the idea of ​​suing Texas Gov. in federal court.

“We are thoroughly considering all those options. But let’s be clear: We are going to take care of people who are on the buses when they arrive in Illinois,” Pritzker said. “For the governor of Texas or the state of Texas What is the result is another question.”

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