PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The controversy over immigration at the nation’s southern border has become an issue of increasing concern in Central Illinois.
WMBD learned Tuesday that Peoria is now in the planning phase for taking on migrant arrivals. So far, republican governors in southern border states have sent many to cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said while the city is not necessarily inviting buses of migrants, the potential for their arrival is certainly present. City leaders and other key community stakeholders are developing a game plan if migrants are brought to the area.
“They often get off the bus needing medical attention, I know that’s not the way you should treat human beings,” Ali said.
While plans for migrants to be sent to Central Illinois are not imminent, Peoria leaders are getting ready in case that changes.
“We want to be prepared, we don’t want to be blindsided by that,” Ali said.
Ali also said city officials and community organizations that provide resources like food and shelter will meet to develop a strategy.
“In the event that a bus arrives, we’re not going to say turn that bus around, we’re going to treat people in a humane and caring way,” Ali said.
Julia Albarracin, the president of Western Illinois Dreamers, a non-profit that connects immigrants to free or low-cost services, said what is happening with the migrants is a political stunt.
“To create a sense of chaos around immigration,” Albarracin said.
Albarracin also said she thinks it is smart that a city like Peoria creates a plan as more migrants reach Chicago.
“I think it’s a great idea to have kind of like an asset map of what are all the organizations that could help in a situation like that, where the different resources would come from,” Albarracin said.
Ali said resources are already stretched thin in Peoria, but the city will not turn its back on the situation.
“We’d have to figure out a way to make it work, and that’s what Peoria does,” Ali said.
The mayor also mentioned that what is happening with the migrants has been a topic of discussion among other Illinois mayors as well. She said some guidance is coming down from the governor’s office and the Illinois Municipal League.
Western Illinois Dreamers has a Peoria welcoming center available at 516 Spring Street. It is open Monday-Friday.