Private plane from Texas drops off over 100 migrants at O'Hare Airport, city officials say

2 people from flight fled scene in Uber, officials say

ByMichelle Gallardo, Liz Nagy, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Private plane from Texas drops off over 100 migrants at O'Hare
A flight from El Paso, Texas, to O'Hare Airport Tuesday night had about 120 migrant asylum seekers on a private plane, Chicago city officials said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A private plane from Texas dropped off over 100 migrants at O'Hare Airport Tuesday evening.

After the flight landed at O'Hare, airport police received a call around 7:15 p.m. about asylum seekers being dropped off at Signature Flight, a spokesperson for the City of Chicago said in a statement Wednesday.

The plane came from El Paso, Texas, and it was chartered by the Texas Department of Emergency Management, according to the spokesperson.

Two people who were on the flight fled the scene in an Uber vehicle before police arrived, the statement said.

On Tuesday morning there were 200 migrants being housed at O'Hare Airport. That number has now jumped to 296, courtesy of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, whose office said this is just the first flight he intends to send Chicago's way.

Video taken by Abbott's office shows the moments Tuesday afternoon when a privately chartered plane boarded some 100 migrants, many of them children, flying them to Chicago without giving the city any notice whatsoever.

"It certainly seems like a stunt," 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said. "A political stunt that goes, not only short in addressing the issue, but further creates more tensions, more danger and more issues in the city."

Mayor Johnson responded Wednesday night, saying, "Clearly the governor is trying to circumvent law. And this is lawlessness that he is engaged in right now. And again the entire impetus behind this ordinance was to make sure that there was coordination that was taking place from the border and the city of Chicago."

The City of Chicago will continue to find space in their shelter system for asylum seekers already staying at O'Hare Airport and for the new arrivals, city officials said.

SEE ALSO | Migrants Chicago: No asylum seekers living at CPD stations for 1st time in months, city says

Among those being housed at the airport's bus terminal are 35-year-old Ana Maria Giordano, her husband and their three young children.

"There was more than 100 people on board and were all like 'what's going on?' They left us here, deserted," she said in Spanish.

She said the people transporting them were the first to leave.

"The people who brought us were the first to get off the plane and we never saw them again," Giordano said in Spanish. "We kept asking what was happening but the people at the airport didn't know. They just asked us to remain calm and told us to stay inside the terminal so we wouldn't be cold."

To make matters worse, she had to be rushed to the hospital shortly after landing.

"I have two brain tumors," Giordano said. "And my 8-year-old son has leukemia. They treated me wonderfully, but brought me back this morning at 5 a.m."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Governor of Texas put Chicago on notice, blaming the city's recent decision to crack down on rogue buses that drop off migrants outside of the designated area, for the new tactic.

READ MORE | 'Rogue' buses are trying to dump migrants in Cicero and leave to avoid Chicago fines

Abbott's office issued a statement about the flight:

"Because Mayor Johnson is failing to live up to his city's "Welcoming City" ordinance by targeting migrant buses from Texas, we are expanding our operation to include flights to Chicago, like the Biden Administration has been doing across the country. Governor Abbott launched the border bus mission in April 2022 to provide support to our overrun and overwhelmed border communities as the Biden Administration leaves thousands of migrants in their towns. Until President Biden steps up and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue taking historic action to help our local partners respond to this Biden-made crisis."