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Chicago expecting even higher pace of migrant arrivals as mayor, governor press White House for more help

Dan Petrella and Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — With the number of migrant-filled buses arriving in Chicago set to hit unprecedented levels this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson have ramped up pressure on President Joe Biden to do more to help local officials cope with the burgeoning humanitarian crisis.

During a call Sunday with Biden’s chief of staff, Jeff Zients, senior adviser Tom Perez and Department of Homeland Security officials, the mayor and governor underscored how the accelerating rate of asylum-seekers will spell a new era for Chicago’s migrant situation, according to sources briefed on the conversation. The total number of arrivals since the first bus from Texas arrived in August 2022 is expected to jump from 15,000 as of last week to 20,000 this week, the sources said.

That total could nearly double within three weeks. The projection is based on information from people along the southern border that indicates 20 to 25 additional buses a day will be arriving in Chicago, at least five days a week, each with about 50 migrants aboard. That means about 1,000 to 1,250 new arrivals daily.

Following up on the weekend call, Pritzker on Monday sent a letter to Biden knocking the federal response to the crisis and pleading for more support. The criticism of the White House came after the governor himself faced heat from some progressive Chicago aldermen over the level of state assistance in caring for the asylum-seekers, who mostly hail from Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

“Today, Illinois stands mostly unsupported against this enormous strain on our state resources,” Pritzker wrote to Biden.

It was the latest sign of increased tension among Democrats at all levels of government as Chicago prepares to host the party’s national convention in August, when Biden is expected to accept his party’s nomination to a second term.


“As the numbers being transported to Chicago are accelerating, the humanitarian crisis is overwhelming our ability to provide aid to the refugee population,” Pritzker wrote. “Unfortunately, the welcome and aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum-seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government. Most critically, the federal government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois.”

The three-page letter calls for the White House to appoint a single person to lead the migrant relief effort on the federal level.

“Right now, we have too many different federal department contacts — who are uncoordinated with one another — that handle various programs related to this humanitarian crisis,” Pritzker wrote.

The governor, who is serving as an adviser to the Biden’s reelection campaign, also asked that the federal government take a more active role in coordinating the transportation of asylum-seekers from Texas to other parts of the country, accusing the administration of “abdicating responsibility once (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) releases migrants into the interior of the country.”


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