Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso on Wednesday demanded an apology from Gov. J.B. Pritzker over the migrant issue.
Last week, Pritzker’s office suggested village officials showed “xenophobia” in reaction to the arrival of migrants.
On Sept. 7, Burr Ridge officials received vague reports that an unknown number of refugees were headed to Burr Ridge from Chicago, Grasso said. They were part of the hundreds of migrants sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Grasso’s letter is here.
* Gov. Pritzker responded to the mayor today…
Dear Mayor Grasso:
I appreciate your commitment to be more welcoming to these asylum seekers than your initial comments suggest. I certainly would have preferred for my administration to be in contact with your office earlier, and I apologize for the inadvertent delay in contacting your office while my team was scrambling to find a place for these 64 people – mostly women and children – to sleep.
As we move forward constructively together, I also hope you reflect on the negative environment you created for these asylum seekers with your public comments and take this opportunity to apologize to them for creating such an unwelcoming reception.
I would like to share a few examples of statements that these migrants could have heard from you:
• You said that they were “supposedly” here legally. They are actually here legally, under a process established for decades.
• You threatened the business license of the hotel that is contracted by the state for emergency housing. This attempt at fear-mongering has a chilling effect on businesses and raises community concerns.
• You said that no additional asylum seekers would be welcome “without Village consent and planning – if at all.” The state has a contract with the hotel to provide emergency rooms. We used this contract for Afghan refugees in February and March of 2022.
My administration will continue to be in touch with you and your office to help address any questions that you have. In fact, my office called twice on Thursday, Sept. 8 and then put you in direct contact with an official at the Illinois of Emergency Management Agency who can quickly answer most of your questions. As one of the state’s lead agencies, they have the best ability to provide accurate and timely information, and track down any additional information you seek.
However, I note for the record that your initial questions focused on the asylum seekers’ legal status, not the obligations of your municipality or desire to help them.
As you are well aware, the State of Illinois has significantly more responsibilities to these asylum seekers than the Town of Burr Ridge, but I am pleased to see that you believe we all share the moral responsibility to be more welcoming.
* Meanwhile, the Tribune asked a group of asylum-seekers if they felt they’d been coerced to board the buses from Texas…
But in Elk Grove Village, the Navarro family and other migrants — all sitting outside the hotel where they have been placed for temporary housing by city and state efforts — said they didn’t feel coerced to board the buses that were made available to them. But they agreed that with the lack of comprehensive help or options to travel to different cities, they felt forced to take whatever route was presented to them after their monthlong journey to safety.
“They (immigration authorities) didn’t force us to get on the bus, but they didn’t give us other options to go elsewhere,” Navarro said. “We were told that at least once we arrived at New York, there would be people that could help us get to Chicago.”
The governor suggested otherwise this week, and perhaps others were coerced. We do know that the refugees flown to an island by Florida’s governor were at the very least misled…
One Venezuelan migrant who arrived at Martha’s Vineyard identified himself as Luis, 27, and said he and nine relatives were promised a flight to Massachusetts, along with shelter, support for 90 days, help with work permits and English lessons. He said they were surprised when their flight landed on an island.
He said the promises came from a woman who gave her name as “Perla” who approached his family on the street outside a San Antonio shelter after they crossed from Mexico and U.S. border authorities released them with an immigration court date.
He said the woman, who also put them up in a hotel, did not provide a last name or any affiliation, but asked them to sign a liability waiver.
“We are scared,” he said, adding he and others felt they were lied to. “I hope they give us help.” […]
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said at a news conference her office would be “looking into that case” and speaking with the Justice Department.
* Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott: Texas Gov. Abbott sends asylum seekers here to sow chaos, but Illinois is better than that: The busloads of people sent from Texas are legal asylum seekers, with every right to temporarily reside in our country while they apply for more permanent refuge. The border agencies have done their work and provided these refugees with legal entry into this country with a future court date to present their asylum claims. Let me repeat: These people are correctly following a legal process that has been in place for decades. When my grandparents emigrated from Ireland, they followed a similar path of uncertainty and turmoil before finally making the United States their home. It’s one of the proudest American traditions — the idea that anyone can become part of this great country if they work hard, play by the rules and take the necessary steps to become part of our larger community.
…Adding… Grasso’s response…
September 16, 2022
Your September 15th response, although addressed to me, was forwarded to me from a local Patch reporter who had received it directly from your press secretary last evening. I only received the letter late this morning from your staff. Upon reading the letter, had it ended where it began - with appreciation of my commitment to be welcoming to the refugees and your apology for your office’s “inadvertent delay” in contacting the Village I would have accepted them as sincere, and moved on. But the rest of your letter contained a different tone. So, here are a few replies:
• The IDHS employee who has continually been present and engaging on site this morning (during my third visit to the hotel since Saturday to check on the refugees) volunteered, without prompting, that the Village really “came through” in welcoming the refugees; so it’s apparent that your comments about us not having welcomed the refugees is wrong - I can produce a volume of emails (not to mention a list of callers) who have offered food, clothing and jobs to the refugees without hesitation;
• Of course, as we discovered the hotel had a contract with the State that was the apparent reason it had agreed to house the refugees for the State for at least 30 days, I emphatically told the hotel that long-term housing of refugees should be cleared with the Village and Board and I want to know the basic information your office wanted to know about them in order to inform the residents and make decisions based on that information - long term housing of refugees for the State is not customary hotel business, as you no doubt know;
• You state this action was done “… while my team was scrambling to find a place for these 64 people - mostly women and children - to sleep.. .” through a contract with the hotel”.. . to provide emergency rooms”. The State should not be scrambling and should have had a plan to handle a few hundred intermittently received refugees - it’s an emergency because there was no plan;
• Of course, my initial questions - after learning they were already checked into the hotel - included their legal status - I learned of their asylum status only then - being here legally is a fundamental, initial piece of important information to anyone in my position;
• The two calls you mention came only after I discovered from a friend in the DuPage Board of Health that there was a conference call of state, county, and city officials - but again, not including my staff at which I made my displeasure with the process abundantly clear.
Finally, i too note for the record that your press secretary has not apologized for the disparaging characterization of our community. Given your heritage (not too dissimilar to mine) - such a comment should never be lodged against a community, and here quickly retracted.
Governor, I wish you the best in a difficult time, but must state in closing that the significant responsibilities you men^ep that th^tate has to the refugees cannot eclipse the rights of the municipal communities and citi^fer^fe of lllin^s/A/ho are your first priority.