CHICAGO (AP) — Seventy-five immigrants bused from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott have arrived in Chicago, the latest chapter of the bitter political battle over the immigration policy of President Joe Biden’s administration.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office confirmed that the group arrived Wednesday night and said the nation’s third-largest city welcomes them. Abbott is busing the immigrants from Texas as part of a strategy launched this year to share the influx of people from outside the United States with cities that have Democratic mayors. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also has adopted this policy.
At a news conference Thursday, Lightfoot called Abbott’s approach “racist and xenophobic” and said it added to the immigrants’ challenges. Lightfoot and officials with Cook County and the state of Illinois committed to helping the immigrants as they try to connect with family elsewhere or settle in Chicago.
“The governor’s actions are not just inhumane; they are unpatriotic,” Lightfoot said. “This cannot be who we are as Americans. We have to stand for a different and better set of principles. If we are going to be a leader in the world, on an international stage and even here at home, we must reject these policies and practices.”
Lightfoot said most of the immigrants are from Venezuela. Authorities have not said when they arrived in the U.S.
Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker also offered his support for the new arrivals in a message on Twitter that also drew on his family history.
“My great grandfather came to this country as an immigrant fleeing Ukraine in 1881. Immigrants just like my family seeking freedom and opportunity built this country,” he tweeted, while saying that the state was “working with federal and city officials to ensure that these individuals are treated with respect and safety.”
Abbott has now bused immigrants to Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. — all of which have Democratic mayors. He confirmed in a statement that the “first group” had been bused to Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He suggested more would be arriving, saying in his statement that Chicago has become a drop-off location as a solution to what he called Biden’s “open border policies overwhelming border communities in Texas.”
Lightfoot said Chicago-area governments and community groups have been preparing for weeks in case Abbott sent immigrants here. She said she expects Abbott to follow through on his “threat” to bus more people here and pledged to continue supporting anyone sent to the city.
“He is manufacturing a crisis,” Lightfoot said. “If it continues, we will be ready.”
Abbott has been waging this battle for months and the mayors of New York and Washington have asked the Biden administration to help with what they describe as an increase in asylum-seeking migrants arriving from border states.
Earlier in the year, Abbott announced that state troopers would stop and inspect commercial vehicles crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a move he acknowledged would “dramatically slow” vehicle traffic near the U.S. ports of entry. He later eased that plan after massive gridlock at the border started to take an economic toll.