Migrants sent by Texas governor arrive in Chicago. ‘People told us no one is going to help you.’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blasts what he calls Biden’s border “inaction” and Lightfoot’s pledge to remain a welcoming city for immigrants in sending about 60 to the city: “I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action,” Abbott says.

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Some immigrants from Venezuela eat fast food on a bus outside Union Station on Wednesday night after arriving from Texas.

Migrants, most from Venezuela, eat fast food on a bus outside Union Station Wednesday night after arriving from Texas.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Bused from Texas, a group of migrants shipped out to sanctuary cities arrived in Chicago Wednesday night as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to send undocumented immigrants into Democrat-led cities.

The Republican governor announced Wednesday that Chicago — along with Washington, D.C., and New York City — will become destination cities to send migrants who cross in the United States in Texas, calling out President Joe Biden’s border protection efforts and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s promises to keep the city a safe haven for undocumented immigrants.

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“Biden’s inaction at our border puts Texans at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” Abbott stated Wednesday night.

The governor said he chose Chicago as a drop-off location to provide relief to “overrun border towns” in Texas.

“Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status,” he said. “I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”

According to city officials, the migrants were dropped off at Union Station Wednesday night. About 8 p.m., close to 60 migrants arrived, and around 20 remained at the drop-off location later that night before being taken to a shelter around 10:15 p.m. The others had been taken to a separate shelter.

“As a city, we are doing everything we can to ensure these immigrants and their families can receive shelter, food, and most importantly — protection,” said a spokesperson in a statement from the mayor’s office Wednesday night. “This is not new: Chicago welcomes hundreds of migrants every year to our city and provides much-needed assistance.”

Migrants wave outside Union Station as a bus leaves to take them to a refugee center Wednesday night, Aug. 31, 2022. Migrants from Venezuela were transported from Texas and dropped off at Union Station.

Migrants from Venezuela wave as a bus leaves Union Station to take them to a refugee center Wednesday night. They were bused into Chicago from Texas.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted Illinois as a “welcoming state” and pointed to his great-grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1881 after fleeing Ukraine.

“Illinois welcomes refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, and we are working with federal and city officials to ensure that these individuals are treated with respect and safety as they look to connect with their family and friends,” Pritzker stated.

The migrants, mostly from Venezuela, faced long, treacherous journeys trying to reach the United States. Some migrants said they traveled for nearly 30 days, others almost 40 days, to reach Texas, crossing jungles, deserts and small towns, meeting up with other migrants along the way.

“We crossed the jungle, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and then got here,” said Cesar Rodriguez, 21, adding that he originally wanted to go to New York but was told that they wouldn’t be able to send him there. So when they offered Chicago instead, he immediately accepted.

Despite not having any family or friends to greet him upon his arrival, Rodriguez said he is ready to work and willing to fight for his place within the United States.

Other migrants said they faced harsh treatment along the way. Jesus, another migrant from Venezuela seeking better health care, said passing through Mexico was especially difficult. Local police stole money from him and many others, he said. Jesus only spent a week in Mexico, he said, “but it was a week of terror.”

“People told us no one is going to help you, you aren’t worth anything here. You can’t eat at a restaurant here, you have to eat in the streets. They treated us horribly. I told many of them, ‘why are you like this, we’re just hungry and want to eat,’” he said.

Jesus said he is hoping to reach a friend waiting for him in Louisville, Kentucky, with a job at a restaurant and space for him at a shelter. Now he hopes he can somehow make his way down there from Chicago.

Among the migrants is a family of three, Elier, his wife, Ana, and their 3-year-old daughter Cataleya. The family is soon to be four. Ana is pregnant.

Cataleya takes a bite of a nectarine next to her father, Elier, as they wait for a bus to take them from Union Station to a refugee center Wednesday night, Aug. 31, 2022.

Cataleya takes a bite of a nectarine next to her father, Elier, as they wait for a bus to take them from Union Station to a refugee center Wednesday night.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

The journey for them was longer, Elier said. It took them two months to get to the United States from Venezuela. They walked most of the way here, Elier said. They spent days in some countries when they didn’t want to, and walked as much as 25 miles in a day.

“We wanted to get to New York because we heard more people speak Spanish there. But we couldn’t get there, so they gave us this option. Now I just have to work and bring a better future for her, and for him,” Elier said, pointing to his wife’s belly.

As city officials welcome the immigrants, city agencies are working to provide social services for them in response to Abbott’s actions.

“We understand that many are fleeing violent, traumatic or otherwise unstable environments,” said a spokesperson from Lightfoot’s office. “We will respond with essential services while these individuals navigate the next steps of their journey, and our community partners have been working diligently to provide a safety net.”

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