Taxpayers foot bill for relocating migrants who want to leave Chicago

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Tom Jones, Maggie Green and Adriana Aguilar WLS logo
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Taxpayers foot bill for relocating migrants who want to leave Chicago
As the Chicago migrant crisis continues, some asylum-seekers are looking to leave the city. The question is, who pays for them to leave?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's the secret side of Chicago's migrant crisis.

Some migrants who arrive here don't want to stay.

More than 35,000 migrants have been sent to Chicago since 2022, mostly from Texas. The question is, who pays for them to leave?

Some asylum-seekers coming to Chicago from the border, at a sizable cost to government agencies, are then going somewhere else.

The ABC7 I-Team asked Illinois state officials for information on how many migrants are coming and going. An ABC7 data investigation reveals this double migration, the coming and going, is running up the tab for a crisis that already caught Illinois by surprise, and continues to stretch government resources and finances.

Migrants have been flown into Illinois from Texas, expelled by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. They have also been bused here by the thousands from the border zone.

People fleeing their homeland have become points of political contention, sides of humanitarian debates and figures on government ledgers. Even as more asylum-seekers arrive here, some continue to leave.

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The I-Team filed an open records request to find out how many migrants are leaving Illinois, what that costs and who's paying?

According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, migrant travel costs in the Chicago area, including people leaving by bus, plane and train, total more than $775,000. And when additional travel related expenses such as rideshares are factored in, it's almost $850,000 of taxpayer money that has been spent on migrants moving out of Chicago.

State officials say 4,327 migrants have now come and gone. That is more than 10% of the migrants sent to Chicago over the last year and a half.

"The Texas government will put migrants on a plane and, you know, tell them that Chicago is a great place to come, which it is. But you're saying, you know, this is what Chicago is going to do for you. And then when they get here, they can see that what was told to them in Texas is not accurate," said 36th Ward Alderman Gil Villegas.

Villegas' Northwest Side ward houses some Chicago migrants. He told the I-Team he wants federal authorities to take more responsibility for the relocation of migrants here and elsewhere.

"What we don't want to do is put people in a position where they're in a place that really doesn't fit or maybe they don't want to be here. So, we are trying to accommodate them as well to make sure that they can go ahead and begin their life here in the United States of America," said Villegas. "What we don't want to do is further traumatize these folks. We want to make sure that we allow them the ability and the dignity to have a roof over their head, a meal in their belly, until we can figure this out."

Catholic Charities has provided some of the logistical help in relocating migrants from Illinois. A spokesperson for Gov. JB Pritzker tells the I-Team that before leaving here, Illinois authorities make sure there is a friend or family member on the other end to receive the asylum-seekers, wherever they're going.

Records show many of the migrants leaving Illinois are going to New York, Florida and Georgia. And some are going back to Texas.

READ MORE | City council committee examines conditions at shelters for Chicago migrants