Mayor Lightfoot says Chicago 'tapped out' of resources as marchers call for help for migrants

BySarah Schulte and Stephanie Wade WLS logo
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Lightfoot, Abbott trade barbs over migrants from Texas
Lightfoot said the city is 'at capacity' after Texas started bussing migrants from the border, but Abbott responded by telling Chicago's mayor to ask the federal government for hel

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot has urged Texas Governor Greg Abbot to stop sending migrants to Chicago, but more are expected to arrive at any time.

In the past week, the state of Texas has sent more than 200 people a day to Chicago.

"I didn't expect to hear anything back, but I felt like it was important to once again try to e engage the governor, also let him to know what his policies and practices are doing to cities like Chicago," Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot sent a letter Sunday to Gov. Abbott, urging him not to send any more migrants, writing, "I am, yet again, appealing to your better nature and asking that you stop this inhumane and dangerous action."

Monday morning, Lightfoot appeared on CNN and said, "We are completely tapped out. We have no more space, no more resources, and frankly, we are already in a surge. We've been seeing over the last week two to three weeks, 200-plus people coming to Chicago every single day."

Mayor Lightfoot said the city is at capacity and struggling to provide shelter for those who are already here.

Since the crisis began months ago, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state has given the city more than $150 million to help pay for housing, food and healthcare. After an additional appropriation in January, Pritzker said state resources are stressed and he has spoken to President Joe Biden about getting more federal dollars.

"They are helping push the money from FEMA to the states, but it isn't enough," Pritzker said.

Marchers in support of immigration gathered at Union Park Monday morning, calling for more help from the federal government. They marched from Union Park to Federal Plaza to demand more action for immigration reform, including help for the migrants.

"This is a humanitarian crisis; there is about %800 million of federal government funding that is not being allocated to city Chicago despite having over 8,000 refugees right now," said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.

Migrants, some pregnant and nursing sick children, are huddled on the floors of police station lobbies right now.

"If we don't put the humanity of these migrants front and center, I understand, and I'm solely compassionate to the fact of the border are themselves really overrun," Lightfoot said. "But you don't solve that problem by simply sticking people on buses to a city that they did not ask to come to for an uncertain future, and now where we are literally full."

Lightfoot also said nearly all the migrants who have arrived in Chicago were "in dire need" of food, water and clothing, adding that many needed extensive medical care. She also said some migrants were in active labor, and some were victims of sexual assault.

"None of these urgent needs were addressed in Texas," Lightfoot said. "Instead, these individuals and families were packed onto buses and shipped across the country like freight without regard to their personal circumstances."

Officials estimate Chicago will need more than $20 million a month just through June to support the influx of migrants. While $800 million of federal money from FEMA has been earmarked for the migrant crisis nationwide, none of it has been disbursed to Chicago yet.

The group also delivered a letter to Senator Dick Durbin to better address this migrant crisis.

Monday afternoon Abbott replied with his own letter telling Lightfoot to ask Biden for help if the city needs more resources.

"If you truly want to 'work together to find a real solution' to this border crisis gripping our nation, you must call on the Biden Administration to do its job by securing our border, repelling the illegal immigrants flooding into our communities, classifying the Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, and intercepting the deadly fentanyl that is endangering our country," Abbott wrote. "You are right that 'this situation is completely untenable,' but this is not a Texas problem-this is a problem for the entire United States of America. Texas began busing migrants to sanctuary cities such as your 'Welcoming City,' along with Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, to provide much-needed relief to our overrun border communities. Until President Biden secures the border to stop the inflow of mass migration, Texas will continue this necessary program."

Lightfoot responded on Twitter, calling Abbott's response "Shameful but sadly expected."

Lightfoot's full letter to Abbott:

"To Governor Greg Abbott,

The City of Chicago is aware that the State of Texas is planning to resume bussing individuals and families to cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, starting Monday, May 1st. I am, yet again, appealing to your better nature and asking that you stop this inhumane and dangerous action.

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. Nearly all the migrants have been in dire need of food, water, and clothing and many needed extensive medical care. Some of the individuals you placed on buses were women in active labor, and some were victims of sexual assault. None of these urgent needs were addressed in Texas. Instead, these individuals and families were packed onto buses and shipped across the country like freight without regard to their personal circumstances.
Chicago is a Welcoming City and we collaborate with County, State, and community partners to rise to this challenge, but your lack of consideration or coordination in an attempt to cause chaos and score political points has resulted in a critical tipping point in our ability to receive individuals and families in a safe, orderly, and dignified way. 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.

I know by your actions that you either do not see or do not care about the trauma these migrants have already faced and continue to suffer under the humanitarian crisis you have created. But I beseech you anyway: treat these individuals with the respect and dignity that they deserve. To tell them to go to Chicago or to inhumanely bus them here is an inviable and misleading choice.

Though I am sympathetic to the significant challenges that border cities face, this situation is completely untenable. The national immigration problem will not be solved by passing on the responsibility to other cities.

I will continue calling on the federal government for more resources and support, as well as much needed policy changes, just as I will call upon them to withhold all FEMA funding slated for Texas if chartered buses resume coming to our city. But I would rather work with you than against you.

Governor Abbott, this is not a state v. state or city v. city problem. The immigration crisis is a national challenge that requires national collaboration. For the good of our country and the individuals who are seeking safety in refuge, let's work together to find a real solution. And that real solution will never be the unilateral bussing of migrants to cities like Chicago."