* Mayor Lori Lightfoot today about the way Texas is transporting asylum seekers to Chicago…
I believe that they have been misled and the only option for them that they’ve been presented to by the folks in Texas is a free bus ride, because they’re not providing any other option to them to go elsewhere into the country where many of them would prefer to go.
* Gov. Pritzker was then asked whether the Texas governor’s actions could be considered human trafficking or even kidnapping…
Pritzker: Well, we are still examining and interviewing the folks who have come to Illinois and listening to their stories about whether or not they willingly got on these buses, knew where they were going or given the information appropriate. And the legal authorities in the state of Illinois, specifically our Attorney General, the General Counsel’s Office in the governor’s office, the Corporation Council for the City of Chicago, all looking into whether or not there is criminal liability for what they’ve done.
Q: Well, we heard that they signed waivers, they knew exactly where they’re going. Some wanted to go to Chicago, because they had family members in the surrounding states. So you’re saying that some might have been kidnapped?
Pritzker: I’m suggesting to you that someone signed a piece of paper, if it was in English and they don’t speak English, if it was in Spanish and they don’t read or write, that’s not an appropriate way for the governor of Texas to release himself from liability.
Q: [Paraphrasing because audio was poor: Is there any type of legal action the state could take to stop the governor of Texas from sending migrants here?]
Pritzker: We’re absolutely looking into all of those options. But let’s be clear, we are going to take care of the people who are on the buses when they arrive in Illinois. The question of what consequence comes to the governor of Texas or to the state of Texas is another question together, but we’re working on it.
* Anyway, on to the press release…
Governor JB Pritzker today issued an emergency disaster proclamation and activated approximately 75 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure all state resources are available to support asylum seekers arriving nearly daily to Chicago from the State of Texas. The proclamation enables the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and other state agencies, in close coordination with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and other local governments, to ensure the individuals and families receive the assistance they need. This includes transport, emergency shelter and housing, food, health screenings, medical assessments, treatments, and other necessary care and services.
“Today, I signed a disaster proclamation allowing the state to speed up the procurement of the immediate resources needed to help Chicago, Cook County, and other jurisdictions provide humanitarian assistance to the asylum seekers who are being sent to our state with no official advance notice by the Governor of Texas,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Let me be clear: while other states may be treating these vulnerable families as pawns, here in Illinois, we are treating them as people.”
The proclamation is necessary to ensure sufficient capacity to meet the needs of more than 500 asylum seekers who have arrived already, with more buses arriving nearly every day. The robust statewide response will include IEMA, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). IEMA has also established a Unified Area Command in Chicago to quickly deploy resources to support the operations.
The groups of migrants arriving via Texas are residing in the United States legally, proceeding through the legal immigration and asylum seeking process. They are often fleeing dangerous and perilous situations, and mostly coming from Central and South America.
At the southern border, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol conducts biometric screenings – including facial and fingerprints – that are cross-checked against terrorist watch lists and criminal databases. New arrivals also undergo health screenings at the border as well as additional screenings once they reach Chicago.
Many of the families and individuals seeking asylum, who began arriving in Chicago on August 31, faced long and difficult journeys from their homes. Some require medical care, including pre-natal care for pregnant women; treatment for malnourishment, dehydration, and asthma in children; foot injury and wound care; vaccinations; and chronic health condition management. They are also in need of mental health assessments and care to begin to recover from the traumas experienced on their journey.
“Illinois is a welcoming beacon of hope for all who are seeking a home and stability here,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “The asylum seekers arriving to our state deserve care, compassion, and dignity, because that is what any person pursuing a better life for themselves and their families would want. We will stand with them by continuing efforts to provide the care and services they need to move forward.”
To date, the State of Texas has been transporting asylum-seeking families and individuals to Illinois with no advance notice and with no coordination with the State of Illinois or the City of Chicago. The buses have been directed to drop their passengers at Union Station in Downtown Chicago despite requests from State and City officials that travelers be brought to Welcome Centers. Gov. Pritzker has repeatedly called on Texas to treat these asylum seekers with dignity, to open the lines of communication with his office, and to stop trying to manufacture chaos for political purposes.