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Outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared an emergency on Tuesday as the sanctuary city reaches a breaking point while it struggles to cope with the influx of illegal immigrants bussed from Texas border towns.
The emergency declaration comes as the number of individuals and family groups arriving in Chicago surges, the mayor’s office said in a statement.
“I declare that a state of emergency exists in the City of Chicago as a result of the migrant inflow … exceeding the City’s ability to manage that inflow,” Lightfoot, a Democrat, said in her emergency declaration (pdf).
Lightfoot requested Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker mobilize the National Guard to provide staffing and logistical support as the housing of illegal immigrants spills over from established and new facilities into police stations, where some are temporarily sheltering.
Chicago has received more than 8,000 illegal immigrants since August 2022, stretching its resources to the limit. The city has redirected some people to other towns, prompting criticism from conservatives. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has pointed out that border towns will soon be expecting roughly 10,000 border crosses per day, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security, when President Joe Biden ends Title 42 on May 11.
Title 42 has been used to swiftly expel illegal immigrants at the border to Mexico amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was first implemented in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, to stem the spread of the virus in crowded detention settings.
Lightfoot’s office said the matter requires swift action.
“This humanitarian crisis has required collective and swift action, which is why the City has partnered with a variety of City departments, Aldermen, community-based organizations, and community leaders to identify sites to serve as temporary respite centers and temporary shelters to address this recent surge in new arrivals,” Lightfoot’s office said in a statement.
Abbott has been bussing illegal immigrants from Texas to various Democrat-run sanctuary cities, like Chicago, since August 2022 to highlight the number of immigrants border towns deal with daily and as a form of protest against Biden’s response to record-high illegal border crossings.
The illegal immigrants arriving in Chicago and other cities were apprehended by federal authorities upon entering the United States and later released in border towns. The governors of border states, such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida, have then offered bus transport to Chicago, New York, and others.
Their mayors have criticized this strategy as inhumane and racist. So-called sanctuary cities have historically refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities that might arrest or deport illegal immigrants.
Lightfoot’s office said the city will set up new locations to prepare for more arrivals and to relieve Chicago Police Department districts.
“The City has continued to call on federal and state governments to support the new arrival mission with much-needed additional funding and resources for emergency shelter and resettlement, as there are not enough resources currently to meet the need,” the mayor’s office said.
Texas Deploys New Special Border Force
Abbott announced the deployment of a special border force on May 8, days ahead of the end of Title 42, which has turned back millions of illegal immigrants in recent years.
Specially trained Texas National Guard members will form the Texas Tactical Border Force, which will be sent via Black Hawk helicopters to areas along the U.S.–Mexico border. They will join Texas National Guard soldiers already deployed as part of Operation Lone Star.
The Biden administration has previously estimated that roughly 300,000 border crossers may be expected once Title 42 ends.
“With the ending of Title 42 on Thursday, President Biden is laying down the welcome mat to people across the entire world, but Texas is deploying our new Texas Tactical Border Force,” Abbott said in a statement.
Abbott expects the new border force to bolster Operation Lone Star and help to intercept and repel large groups of illegal immigrants trying to enter Texas after Biden terminates Title 42. A similar tactic was used in El Paso successfully last December, the governor said at a news conference on May 8.
The elite National Guard team will focus on surges that occur and identify and shut down crossing points, Abbott said. They will have access to aircraft, boats, night vision equipment, and riot gear, he added.
Many of the border crossers expected to arrive once Title 42 ends are from Mexico, Venezuela, and Central America and come with the expectation that they’ll be permitted entry to the United States under the current administration’s policies.
At the news conference, Abbott said he’d continue bussing illegal immigrants to Chicago and New York. Officials in New York recently announced they’d send hundreds of illegal immigrants to a small city in Rockland County, which alarmed local officials who declared a state of emergency.
Lightfoot Begs Abbott to Stop Sending Arrivals
Lightfoot recently wrote to Abbott on May 1, asking him to stop busing illegal immigrants to her city.
“We simply have no more shelters, spaces, or resources to accommodate an increase of individuals at this level, with little coordination or care, that does not pose a risk to them or others,” Lightfoot’s letter reads.
She begged him to “stop this inhumane and dangerous action,” saying that many of the arrivals have been in need of food, water, clothing, and extensive medical care.
“I am, yet again, appealing to your better nature and asking that you stop this inhumane and dangerous action,” her letter reads. “Since we began responding to the arrival of migrants sent by your delegation in August 2022, we have shouldered the responsibility of caring for more than 8,000 men, women, and children with no resources of their own. That number continues to grow.”
In response, Abbott told Lightfoot that Texas border towns deal with far more illegal immigrants than Chicago has seen.
“As the mayor of a self-declared sanctuary city, it is ironic to hear you complain about Chicago’s struggle to deal with a few thousand illegal immigrants, which is a fraction of the record-high numbers we deal with in Texas on a regular basis,” Abbott’s letter states. “Texas border towns like Eagle Pass, Brownsville, and Laredo—and even bigger cities like El Paso—cannot handle the flood of illegal immigrants rushing across our southern border.”
Ryan Morgan and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
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