Plane from Texas drops off more than 300 migrants at Rockford airport; 8 buses heading to Chicago

Monday, January 1, 2024
Texas plane, 300 migrants land in Rockford; 8 buses headed to Chicago
How many migrants have arrived in Chicago? A flight from Texas to the Rockford, IL airport early Sunday was carrying more than 300 asylum-seekers.

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WLS) -- Eight migrant buses headed to Chicago on Sunday morning after a plane from Texas carrying over 300 asylum seekers landed in Rockford overnight.

Migrant-filled coach buses coming from Texas are increasingly being left without notice in suburbs all across the area, forcing those asylum-seekers to make their way to Chicago by other means.

Chicago's migrant landing zone descended into chaos on Sunday morning as hundreds of new arrivals just showed up, many of them on foot. Most appeared to be among the 350 people who landed at Rockford's airport at 1 a.m. The plane had a two-and-a-half hour delay at the San Antonio, Texas, airport before coming to Illinois.

The migrants were flown from Texas to Illinois in a jumbo jet, landing at Rockford International Airport, Rockford ABC affiliate WTVO reported.

A statement issued by the mayor's office said, in part, "Upon landing, the passengers then boarded eight buses chartered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The buses dropped passengers off in various suburbs and they are making their way to the city via train and other means."

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning.

"Now, he's taking on the very dangerous task of placing individuals on airplanes and flying them into our various cities. This is really a matter of not just our national security, but it's the type of chaos that this governor is committed to administering," Johnson said.

In recent days, the landing zone, located in the South Loop at Polk and Des Plaines, has become increasingly crowded as shelter space, especially for single men, has run out. Six warming buses are now parked there, providing temporary living quarters while they wait.

According to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management, there were, as of Sunday morning, 278 people awaiting placement there. Meanwhile, others, fortunate enough to have family or friends in other parts of the country, were loaded onto ride shares and sent to O'Hare to catch their connecting flights.

Since December, Texas has been sending migrants to Chicago and other sanctuary cities across the country, as part of Greg Abbott's "Operation Lone Star." The asylum-seekers crossed into the United States at the southern border.

Rockford is not a sanctuary city. Winnebago County officials said they were alerted that plane carrying migrants was scheduled to land.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara issued a statement, saying, "Once the plane lands, those onboard will offload and immediately board buses to Chicago's 'landing zone.' Those on the plane will not exit the airport property at any time before boarding the buses," the statement read in part. "Sheriff's Deputies will then be escorting buses to I-90 to allow for safe passage."

The Rockford charter is the second migrant-filled plane to arrive in the Chicago area. Venezuelan migrant Carlos Barazate and his family were on the first flight that landed at O'Hare on Dec. 20.

"We are still living at the airport, waiting to see where they send us," Barazate said, in Spanish. "We came here hoping to get some help with coats and shoes for the children."

According to the OEMC, 14 buses are expected to arrive over the course of Sunday. That includes the people who were on the Rockford flight. Those passengers, ABC7 was told, were all loaded onto Metra trains in the western suburbs, including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Lombard.

The overnight plane transport came after a bus carried 30 to 40 migrants to northwest suburban Woodstock this weekend.

The suburbs are being inundated with asylum-seekers arriving on rogue buses, without warning, from the border. Tinley Park Mayor Michael Glotz talked about the additional resources and stress it's putting on municipalities.

"They have eyes and ears on all the train stations. Pat and our police chief also have dispatch, all the cameras are being watched monitor 24/7," Glotz said.

So far, tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in Chicago this year after the city was declared a sanctuary city in 2021 by then Mayor Lori Lightfoot in response to former President Donald Trump's effort to build a wall along the Texas border.

In September, Gov. JB Pritzker asked Illinois communities outside of Chicago to take in some of the migrants who continue to be sent here. To encourage this, he announced $41.5 million in grants to pay for shelter and housing supports, food, legal support and health care.