Pritzker signs disaster declaration to aid people bused from Texas, calls on Abbott to ‘stop trying to sow the seeds of chaos’

At a morning news conference, the governor also said he is calling in the Illinois National Guard to help with infrastructure and services to handle immigrants bused to the state by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a Wednesday news conference, where he announced he has signed a disaster declaration to allow access to more resources to help people being bused to Illinois by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a Wednesday news conference, where he announced he has signed a disaster declaration to allow access to more resources to help people being bused to Illinois by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gov. J. B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed a disaster proclamation allowing the state to speed up procurement of resources for more than 500 immigrants who have been sent to Illinois on buses from Texas.

Pritzker, who last week complained that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his state agencies won’t communicate with Illinois, also had a message for the Republican governor.

“Now is the time to stop trying to sow the seeds of chaos, to put aside politics and focus on human rights,” Pritzker said. “Communicate with us. Have your state agencies call us back.”

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At a morning news conference, Pritzker also said he is calling in 75 Illinois National Guard members to help with handling the hundreds of people being bused to Illinois by Abbott. That includes assisting local organizations and local governments, he said.

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

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser last week issued a public health emergency in response to Abbott’s program, which has sent more than 7,900 immigrants to the nation’s capital since April.

“This is not a time to demonize human beings,” Pritzker said. “This is a time to live up to our values. And in Illinois, we will follow the moral compass that makes this one of the greatest states in the nation.”

He was joined at the news conference by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other state and elected officials.

A news conference on Wednesday at which Gov. J.B. Pritzker (at lectern) announced a disaster proclamation to aid the state in helping immigrants bused to the state from Texas.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (at lectern) on Wednesday announces a disaster proclamation to aid the state in helping immigrants bused to Illinois from Texas.

Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

Lightfoot said the federal government “must step up” to help immigrants coming to Chicago: “We need federal support, resources, communication and collaboration, and it has to come in short order.”

Lightfoot also accused Abbott of starving the state and city of information.

“Gov. Abbott clearly has mandated that no one in Texas government, not the social services agencies, not the Texas Rangers or anyone else can provide us with any information or notice — the normal lines of communication that we have with state leaders, particularly when it comes to issues of emergency management or law enforcement. He’s shut those off for us,” Lightfoot said. “It is a manufactured crisis by ambush, to be very clear.”

D.C. officials have also said Texas officials aren’t giving them any advance notice of bus arrivals.

Texas officials have sent busloads of immigrants to Chicago as part of Abbott’s plan to send people arriving at the southern border into Democrat-led cities, including New York and Washington.

Some of the people arriving in Chicago, including some families, have been housed at two Salvation Army shelters in Humboldt Park. Others have been placed at a hotel in Burr Ridge, in DuPage County.

Lightfoot said approximately 500 immigrants have arrived to Chicago on buses from Texas. And Illinois Department of Health and Human Services Director Grace Hou said an 11th bus arrived in Chicago early Wednesday.

“We do expect this number to grow,” Lightfoot said. “We started out with one or two buses, and now we’re seeing a regular cadence.”

Lightfoot also said she has had discussions with the mayors of Burr Ridge and Elk Grove Village about immigrants being housed in their municipalities.

“We agreed that we’re going to communicate on a regular basis,” Lightfoot said.

Abbott’s program is voluntary, and those who have signed up have been processed and released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But Pritzker said city and state officials, including Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the general counsel’s office in the governor’s office and the corporation counsel for the city of Chicago are all looking into whether there is “criminal liability” for the Texas program, including whether the people bused from Texas knew what they were signing up for.

“I believe that they have been misled, and the only option for them that they’ve been presented by the folks in Texas is a free bus ride, because they’re not providing any other option to them to go elsewhere in the country, where many of them would prefer to go,” Lightfoot said.

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday pinned the blame on the disarray of the busing program on both Lightfoot and Pritzker.

“After years of supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ open borders agenda, Lori Lightfoot and J.B. Pritzker are crying foul because they’re now forced to deal with the very issues they’ve shoved on southern border states,” RNC spokesperson Preya Samsundar said in a statement. “We welcome Lightfoot and Pritzker to end their sanctuary city policies and join Republicans in the fight to secure the border.”

Meanwhile, polling released on Wednesday by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas found 52% of Texas voters polled supported Abbott’s busing program. The poll found 80% of Republicans support it, while 62% of Democrats oppose the program.

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