Chicago politicians call for federal help as Texas sends plane carrying migrants

Private plane from El Paso drops off 100 migrants at O'Hare Airport

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Michelle Gallardo, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Chicago politicians call for help as Texas sends plane of migrants
Chicago's migrant crisis has taken a new turn as Texas is now flying migrants to O'Hare Airport, and more buses are expected to arrive Thursday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's migrant crisis has taken a new turn as Texas is now flying asylum-seekers to O'Hare Airport.

The first plane brought more than 100 people to Chicago and more planes could be on the way soon. On top of that, seven buses of migrants from Texas may arrive Thursday in Chicago, according to OEMC.

Meanwhile, those who were flown into O'Hare Tuesday night are slowly being moved out into more stable shelter. As of Thursday morning, the number of migrants at the airport decreased from 296 to 216. Air mattresses have now been provided for many of those who remain. Others were loaded on school buses to go on the once-daily shower run.

Vianney Alarcón is one of the volunteers with the police station response team that helps with migrants living at O'Hare Airport.

"My biggest fear is we get a big number count again and we have to start using police stations again," Alarcón said. "At the border their medications are taken away, and a lot of our nuevos vecinos have life term treatment plans, so we need to make sure those treatment plans are being met, some actually come and help with shower needs as well. We come and give them care kits, blankets and mats, because in there it's not set up with proper bedding."

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

Local elected officials from the Latino Caucus are calling on President Joe Biden to help.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez and U.S. Representative Jesus "Chuy" Garcia gathered with other city and community leaders in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Building to demand more funding from the federal government.

This comes on the heels of a five-year-old boy who died in a city-run shelter in Pilsen and in the wake of Texas flying migrants to Chicago.

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington discusses the latest on the migrant crisis.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott releasing video and claiming responsibility for flying more than 100 migrants to O'Hare on Tuesday.

Thursday morning the Latino Caucus in Chicago calling it cruel and pleading with the Biden administration to step up.

"I support the call for additional resources from the federal government," Garcia said. "That is essential. It's critical for Chicago. It's critical for New York, for Houston, for all the other cities that are seeking to do everything that they can but they cannot do it alone."

Governor Abbott defended his actions for the charter flight, saying "Sanctuary city Chicago started obstructing and targeting our busing mission. Texas will now expand our operation to include flights to Chicago. Until Biden steps up to secure the border, we will continue to provide overwhelmed Texas border towns with much-needed relief."

SEE ALSO | Black churches team up to support migrants at Daley College

Last week Chicago began impounding and citing buses that violated designated drop off zones. Mayor Brandon Johnson reacting to the charter flight last night on WTTW's Chicago Tonight.

"The governor of Texas is determined to cause chaos throughout the country and this is after City Council passed an ordinance that I put forth to provide more structure, to provide more calm and more coordination with how buses are arriving in the city of Chicago," Mayor Johnson.

White House spokesman Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a statement, "Governor Abbott leaves migrants on the side of the road in the dead of winter, installs razor wire making it more dangerous for Border Patrol to do their jobs, and promotes extreme laws that will make communities in Texas less safe. Governor Abbott is not interested in solutions, he only seeks to use people as political pawns."

The first permitted bus arrived in Chicago Thursday morning after the city passes a bus safety ordinance in November.

"The permit was submitted to the Chicago Department of Transportation prior to the arrival of the bus at the landing zone and approved by Action CDOT Commissioner Tom Carney," a statement from a Chicago spokesperson read in part. "The City of Chicago has implemented the bus safety ordinance to ensure a safe and structured intake process for asylum seekers arriving in Chicago. As temperatures continue to drop, it is imperative that all interstate buses follow the basic safety protocols set out by the City. These safety protocols mandate that bus companies submit a permit 48 hours in advance of arrival in Chicago and drop off asylum-seekers in the designated landing zone.

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.

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."