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Pritzker slams Trump over immigration, calls for federal action, lays out plan for aftermath

Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The governor got a bit salty today

“I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven, against the admission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never thought the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their lives.”
Those words were spoken a hundred years ago by Georgia Governor Clifford Walker at a Ku Klux Klan rally. But the reality is, it could have been a social media post by President Trump last week.
Time might march forward, but our society’s worst impulses seem never to go away.
I’ve spoken many times about my own family’s refugee history. I will not join the chorus of people in this country or in this chamber who eagerly look to slam shut an immigration door that was once open to our ancestors.
Over the last eighteen months, more than 35,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Illinois. Most of them landed here in buses sent by Governor Abbott of Texas. Abbott willfully planned the arrival of these individuals in locations and at times that would engender the maximum chaos for the city of Chicago and for the asylum seekers themselves. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly have been sent here in the dead of night, left far from our designated welcome centers, in freezing temperatures, wearing flip flops and T-shirts. Think about that the next time a politician from Texas wants to lecture you about being a good Christian.
Our immigration system has been broken for a long time. No doubt, the current migrant crisis is a problem of the federal government’s making, and I mean both political parties.
I am sure that when I leave the podium today, there will be some who will walk outside this chamber, looking for a microphone so they can start yelling about sanctuary cities and immigrants taking our tax dollars.
I hope that the press covering those statements will ask these politicians one important question: “did you or did you not support the federal immigration bill that the White House agreed to with Senate Republicans?”
There was a chance two weeks ago for a breakthrough on immigration policy. And the President and Congressional Democrats did what most voters say they want from leaders—they sat at a table with Republicans and negotiated a bipartisan compromise.
The White House announced a bill that was supported by top Republican leadership in the Senate—and then within hours—hours—Republicans who had helped write the legislation announced they were suddenly against the legislation.
Including, most glaringly, every single Republican member of the Illinois Congressional delegation.
Why did this happen? Why did every single Republican run away from something they claimed they desperately want? Because Donald Trump told them to, and they’re afraid of him. And why did Trump tell them to reject the bill? Because he wanted to use the issue of immigration against President Biden in the November elections.
I’m not making hyperbolic statements. Donald Trump said that out loud.
That bill would have helped Illinois. It would have provided money and resources that we don’t normally receive as a state far from the Southern border. 
Maybe some Republicans find it hard to put country over Party. But our obligations to the people we represent supersede the letter after our names.
Joe Biden has been a very good president who has rescued the economy and protected freedom. But states and cities in the country’s interior are not equipped alone to handle the rapid influx of new arrivals we have seen. The White House and the federal government need to step up—to coordinate and manage these asylum seekers when they cross the border and are in federal custody, and not leave it to the Governor of Texas who has no goal but to sow chaos and destruction.
Listen, maybe some of you think we should just say, “this is not our problem,” and that we should let the migrant families starve or freeze to death. But that’s not what decent Midwesterners do. That’s not what leaders do. 
We didn’t ask for this manufactured crisis. But we must deal with it all the same.
With our partners in Cook County and the City of Chicago, my administration has worked to develop a cost effective and comprehensive response plan over the next twelve months. We used the most reliable data available and estimated what it would take to ensure that the most basic human needs are met for asylum seekers arriving in Chicago.
This plan also includes continuing our efforts to divert as many people as possible away from temporary shelter to more permanent settlement, wherever that may be. Not because we are unwelcoming of immigrants. But because Chicago’s shelter system is near capacity, and it is dangerous if migrants have no shelter or support at all. 
To date, we’ve moved 9,000 individuals through the process—from arrival, to temporary shelter, to independent housing and self-sufficiency. Thousands of others have moved on to find family or sponsors. We’ve also helped thousands through the Temporary Protected Status and Employment Authorization process so they can legally work. Private industry in Illinois has expressed a strong desire to hire those who are authorized to work. 
I committed to the Mayor of Chicago and the Cook County Board President that I would come to the General Assembly and ask for funding for a little over fifty percent of the cost of this plan—which comes to $181.7 million.
We don’t have any clear idea how long Governor Abbott intends to hold the nation hostage, but his political stunt will eventually come to an end. So, let’s start planning for its aftermath—ensuring that during the coming fiscal year, some of the thirty temporary migrant shelters can and ought to be converted to other productive uses—as determined by the communities themselves. Neighborhood clinics, community centers, workforce training, housing—there are lots of good ideas I’ve heard from people, so we have designated $5 million in this budget for shelter conversion grants.
I won’t pretend any of this is easy, but it would be irresponsible to do anything but come here, lay out the scope of the challenge, tell you what I think we need to do, and then work with you to make it happen.

Personally, I think each of us should follow the examples set by the good people of our state.
Evanston’s Mike Moyer is fixing up bicycles to donate to migrants. Chicago’s Samantha Oulavong is teaching English to our new neighbors on a South Loop basketball court. And then there’s Oak Park’s Elaine Pierce. A retiree, Elaine opened her modest two-story, three-bedroom home to seven “new family members,” as she would say—absorbing all the costs on her own. Mike, Samantha, and Elaine are among the best of us—epitomizing what it means to be an Illinoisan through and through.


  1. - Chicago Voter - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:03 pm:

    I think that was the best speech Pritzker has ever given. Presidential.

  2. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:08 pm:

    Whether or not he runs for higher office, this is what leaders look like. Bravo!

  3. - Wisco Expat - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:10 pm:

    The line from the KKK rally gave me goosebumps. Bravo to Pritzker and his speech team for producing one heck of a speech.

  4. - Dotnonymous x - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:12 pm:

    Pritzker’s opponents on immigration should look to their good book…for advice.

  5. - The Truth - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:16 pm:

    When he goes into the national-scoped topics, he hits them pitch-perfect for a Democrat. I will be surprised if he never runs for President.

  6. - DownstateGrl - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:32 pm:

    The Governor came to play today.

  7. - Radically Moderate - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:36 pm:

    Gov JB continues to impress and deliver. After Rauner, I didn’t have much hope for a better Illinois. I’m glad I stuck around this wonderfully diverse Land of Lincoln.

  8. - SWSider - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:42 pm:

    I wish he would also direct equal ire at some of the people currently sitting in Washington who can and should be sending funds people need.

    Unfortunately, that’s never been his style, which is probably why I always roll my eyes when he does tough talkin’ JBP.

  9. - Rudy’s teeth - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:48 pm:

    I like Governor Salty. More, please.

  10. - SWSider - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 1:50 pm:

    JBP’s refusal to more directly advocate for Illinois’ needs when it comes to migrants will be a stain on his legacy. Party politics over the state’s needs. Again.

  11. - Dotnonymous x - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 3:47 pm:

    - I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven… -

    Always tryin’ to make God their co-signer.

  12. - very old soil - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 4:41 pm:

    SWS, Quiet pleas and negotiations are usually more effective than screaming and pounding on your desk. Neither of us know the discussions between the Governor and the President.

  13. - Lincoln Lad - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 4:41 pm:

    Proves that being a billionaire doesn’t keep you from being a good person. Bravo Governor. Well done.

  14. - Dotnonymous x - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 5:16 pm:

    I’m proud of Governor Pritzker.

  15. - Give Us Barabbas - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 8:37 pm:

    JB understands the assignment.

  16. - Candy Dogood - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 9:48 pm:

    ===Personally, I think each of us should follow the examples set by the good people of our state.===

    The governor is a billionaire. I hope he follows that example.

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