CHICAGO (WMBD) — As asylum seekers are being bussed to Chicago from the State of Texas, often without warning, the State of Illinois has activated more resources to help and welcome them.
Since the end of August, buses full of asylum seekers have regularly been arriving at Union Station in Chicago, with no warning from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that they are coming.
On Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker issued an emergency disaster proclamation and activated approximately 75 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure all state resources are available to support asylum seekers arriving nearly daily to Chicago from the State of Texas.
Pritzker was joined by Chicago leaders who have been on the receiving lines when these buses arrive.
“We believe that no human being should be turned away during their most vulnerable time and should instead be welcomed with open arms and support,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Today, I applaud Governor Pritzker and his team for putting a Declaration of a State of Emergency in place, which will bolster our efforts to ensure new migrants are received, provided with assistance and importantly, treated with dignity and respect.”
The proclamation enables the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and other state agencies, in coordination with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and other local governments, to ensure the individuals and families receive the assistance they need.
This includes transport, emergency shelter and housing, food, health screenings, medical assessments, treatments, and other necessary care and services.
“The asylum seekers arriving to our state deserve care, compassion, and dignity, because that is what any person pursuing a better life for themselves and their families would want,” said Lte. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “We will stand with them by continuing efforts to provide the care and services they need to move forward.”
The groups of migrants arriving via Texas are residing in the United States legally, proceeding through the legal immigration and asylum seeking process. They are often fleeing dangerous and perilous situations, and mostly coming from Central and South America.
Prior to their arrival in Chicago, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol conducts biometric screenings on asylum seekers at the southern border. This includes facial and fingerprints that are cross-checked against terrorist watch lists and criminal databases before they are transported.
A press release from the Governor’s office Wednesday said some families and individuals require medical care, including pre-natal care, treatment for malnourishment, dehydration, asthma, wound care, vaccinations, and chronic health condition management.
“We know that many of these resilient asylum seekers have had difficult journeys to reach Chicago,” said Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “IDPH is working closely with our partners in Chicago, Cook County, and other local governments, as well as state agency partners, to ensure that asylum seekers both receive appropriate initial health care screening and access to important vaccinations and treatments. Our goal is to ensure that these individuals, children, and families receive the services they need to stay healthy.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has renamed its efforts to help asylum seekers to “Welcoming with Dignity.”
“Dignity is the least we can promise. We remain committed to welcoming every human being here in Illinois,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou.