As Texas plans to resume busing migrants to Chicago on Monday, Mayor Lightfoot blasts Gov. Abbott in letter

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a letter Sunday asking him to halt plans to once again bus migrants to Chicago starting Monday.

Lightfoot’s request and Texas’s apparent plans to imminently resume sending busloads full of migrants come as the city faces mounting pressure from a recent spike in migrant arrivals.

A late-April tenfold increase in migrant arrivals has stretched city resources, forcing many people, including children, to sleep on hard police station floors as they await shelter, Brandie Knazze, commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services, told City Council on Friday.

Chicago has taken in and cared for over 8,000 migrants with no resources of their own since Texas began sending migrants to the city last August, Lightfoot wrote in her letter to Abbott. Many direly needed food, water, clothing and medical care, while others were women in active labor or victims of sexual assault, she added.

“None of these urgent needs were addressed in Texas. Instead, these individuals and families were packed onto buses and shipped across the country like freight without regard to their personal circumstances,” Lightfoot wrote.

Abbott began sending busloads of migrants from Texas to Chicago, as well as other major cities, last fall to protest new arrivals in his state. More recently, the individuals and families arriving from Texas have come to Chicago via plane, according to city officials.

Lightfoot argued in her letter that Abbott and Texas government officials are attempting “to cause chaos and score political points” by not coordinating with other governments. The influx of migrants has compromised Chicago’s ability to take care of newly arriving people, she added.

“We simply have no more shelters, spaces or resources,” Lightfoot wrote.

The alarm Lightfoot sounded in her letter echoed warnings made at the Friday City Council hearing on immigration. At the meeting, Knazze said the city’s immediate solution to the mounting new arrivals is increasing the amount of shelter space, possibly by housing newcomers in decommissioned schools, vacant commercial properties, church properties and Park District facilities.

The number of Chicago migrant arrivals is expected to soon increase even more as a 2020 U.S. policy that tightened border regulations to stem the spread of COVID-19, Title 42, is set to expire May 11, Knazze said.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications is developing plans to handle surges following Title 42′s expiration, said Matthew Doughtie, OEMC emergency management services manager.

The city is already facing a $53 million shortfall on the $124.8 million anticipated cost of caring for newly arriving migrants from the start of the year through June, Chicago budget director Susie Park said at the Friday meeting.

Lightfoot told Abbott that she knows by his actions he doesn’t see or doesn’t care about the trauma the bused migrants have faced “and continue to suffer under the humanitarian crisis you have created.”

“But I beseech you anyway: treat these individuals with the respect and dignity that they deserve. To tell them to go to Chicago or to inhumanely bus them here is an inviable and misleading choice,” she wrote.

She acknowledged the struggles border cities face and called the nation’s migration situation “untenable.” Still, she called on Abbott to not pass on responsibilities to cities outside Texas and instead collaborate on nationwide solutions.

The mayor said she will continue calling on the federal government to share more resources and make policy changes to address migration. She added she’ll also call on emergency funding to be withheld from Texas if the migrant-filled buses chartered from Texas resume.

“But I would rather work with you than against you,” Lightfoot wrote. “Let’s work together to find a real solution. And that real solution will never be the unilateral bussing of migrants to cities like Chicago.”