Communication breakdown? Pritzker, Texas governor disagree on who’s ignoring whom in immigrant busing dispute

Gov. J.B. Pritzker complained Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s busing of immigrants is politically motivated. His staff has been “wholly uncooperative in Texas,” Pritzker said. “They are trying to sow chaos around the country, not just here in Chicago.”

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, in May; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last month.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, in May; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last month.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images-file; Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times-file

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday accused Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his office of being “wholly uncooperative” in communicating about the busloads of immigrants Abbott has sent to Chicago from Texas — an accusation that prompted a war of words between the two.

The Illinois governor on Thursday complained about a lack of communication at an unrelated news conference in south suburban Harvey, calling Abbott’s busing politically motivated and “disgusting.” 

“It shouldn’t be that the governor of Texas is essentially taking these people, treating them like cattle, treating them like property, putting them on buses, sending them wherever he wants to send them,” the Chicago Democrat said.

“It should be the choice of people who come to this country and, of course, the United States government should be managing that. I guess I’ll just say if they’re coming to Illinois, we’re a welcoming state. … What’s happening, what the governor of Texas is doing is disgusting, and it needs to stop.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news on the South Side last month.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference on the South Side in August.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“Staffs have been in contact with one another, but they have been wholly uncooperative in Texas,” Pritzker said. “They are trying to sow chaos around the country, not just here in Chicago.” 

The governor’s office also said there has been “no communication” with Abbott’s office, arguing Illinois officials need information to prepare for the incoming immigrants. 

The Texas Republican’s office in turn told the Sun-Times Pritzker and his staff “have at no point made any effort to reach out to Gov. Abbott or his office.”

“Instead of spreading false claims of contacting our office and complaining about a few thousands [of] migrants being bused to a sanctuary city in his state, Gov. Pritzker should contact the person who created this border crisis to step up and do his job — President Biden,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in Uvalde, Texas in May.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images-file

But Pritzker’s office countered that Illinois Emergency Management Agency head Alicia Tate-Nadeau has made repeated efforts to reach Abbott’s emergency management director, including phone calls, voice mail messages and a letter emailed on Thursday morning.

The Democratic governor’s administration provided a copy of that letter to the Sun-Times. It was sent to W. Nim Kidd, who serves as chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. 

The letter requests that a liaison officer be able to work with the Texas Department of Emergency Management to provide demographics and population information about people on the buses, departure and arrival times and “any pertinent information related to overall medical disposition.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said Thursday there has been no contact with Abbott or his office — beyond Twitter feuding — since the first buses of immigrants arrived in Chicago.

While the city knew immigrants would be coming to Chicago last week, Lighfoot’s office said they weren’t aware of the timing until Abbott announced their arrival on Twitter last week. 

Sources told the Sun-Times Texas officials opted to drop off the immigrants at the very public Union Station, instead of a welcoming center, where local officials had implored bus operators to send them.

Migrants wave as a bus leaves to take them to a refugee center outside Union Station in Chicago on Aug. 31.

Immigrants wave Aug. 31 as a bus leaves Union Station to take them to a refugee center.

Anthony Vazquez /Chicago Sun-Times-file

Nonprofits on the ground in Texas had been sending in tips and information for weeks about the plan to add Chicago to Abbott’s bus program, and they remain a key source of information.

Abbott’s program is targeting sanctuary cities and their Democratic mayors, and it’s aimed at pressuring the Biden administration to curb border crossings.

Both Abbott and Pritzker are in campaign mode and playing to their bases as they look toward November.

Another three busloads of immigrants arrived in Chicago on Wednesday. The first arrived Aug. 31, the same day Abbott’s office announced Chicago would be added to his program. 

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday also declared a public emergency over the crisis, saying more than 9,400 immigrants have already been sent to the capital city by Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. 

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