Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that Chicago is the latest destination to which Texas will bus migrants as part of a strategy to bring attention to the influx of people arriving from the southern border. Abbott began busing thousands of migrants from Texas border communities to Washington, D.C., and New York City earlier this year.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office called the practice of busing migrants “racist,” but affirmed the city’s commitment to welcoming the new arrivals.
Abbott’s busing strategy has so far cost the state of Texas more than $12 million before Chicago was announced as a destination.
According to statements from both officials’ offices, 60 migrants arrived at Chicago’s Union Station on Wednesday evening. Lightfoot’s office said the city worked with departments, agencies and community partners to provide essential services to the migrants who made the journey from Texas to Illinois.
“As a city, we are doing everything we can to ensure these immigrants and their families can receive shelter, food, and most importantly protection. This is not new; Chicago welcomes hundreds of migrants every year to our city and provides much-needed assistance,” Ryan Johnson, the mayor’s deputy director of communications, said in a statement to The Texas Tribune.
In recent months, GOP leaders have criticized a routine practice of the immigration system in which migrant children are transported by planes to communities across the country to be connected with a relative or sponsor. That practice has been ongoing for years, even under former President Donald Trump, according to multiple media outlets. Abbott’s office on Thursday called Lightfoot hypocritical for criticizing the governor but not denouncing that federal practice.
“Texas is taking unprecedented action to respond to President Biden’s ongoing border crisis, busing migrants to Washington, D.C., New York City, and now Chicago to provide relief to our overrun and overwhelmed border communities,” Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement about Lightfoot. “Instead of complaining, she should call on President Biden to take immediate action to secure the border—something the President continues failing to do.”
Additionally, Abbott’s office questioned the longstanding practice of transporting migrant children via plane and echoed the complaint of other GOP leaders who have cast the federal immigration flights as a product of President Joe Biden’s administration.
Right-wing media outlets have cast this transportation practice as “ghost flights,” suggesting this movement of migrant children happen during the night to avoid suspicion. According to NPR, federal officials say these flights happen at all hours of the day and have been happening in the same way under previous administrations — though there have been more flights recently to transport the increasing number of migrant children arriving at the southern border.
Johnson criticized Trump’s immigration policies as discriminatory and racist and said they have encouraged strategies like Abbott’s to bus migrants across the country.
“Unfortunately, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is without any shame or humanity. But ever since he put these racist practices of expulsion in place, we have been working with our community partners to ready the city to receive these individuals,” Johnson said.
The program to send migrants to the other cities is part of Abbott’s multibillion-dollar effort to curb border crossings. As a way of antagonizing Biden over his border policies, Abbott began in April sending migrants who volunteer to accept the rides to Washington. The move drew mixed reviews across the state and sent Washington officials scrambling to accommodate an influx of asylum-seekers. Abbott expanded the program in August, sending migrants to New York City, a move Mayor Eric Adams has called “inhumane.”
In total, more than 7,400 migrants have been bused to the nation’s capital, and over 1,500 have been sent to New York City, according to the governor’s office.