CHICAGO - Governor JB Pritzker issued an emergency disaster proclamation Wednesday 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.
The proclamation enables the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and other state agencies, in close 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.
"Today, I signed a disaster proclamation allowing the state to speed up the procurement of the immediate resources needed to help Chicago, Cook County, and other jurisdictions provide humanitarian assistance to the asylum seekers who are being sent to our state with no official advance notice by the Governor of Texas," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Let me be clear: while other states may be treating these vulnerable families as pawns, here in Illinois, we are treating them as people."
Pritzker says the proclamation is necessary to ensure sufficient capacity to meet the needs of more than 500 asylum seekers who have arrived already, with more buses arriving nearly every day.
The robust statewide response will include IEMA, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). IEMA has also established a Unified Area Command in Chicago to quickly deploy resources to support the operations.
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.
At the southern border, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol conducts biometric screenings – including facial and fingerprints – that are cross-checked against terrorist watch lists and criminal databases.
New arrivals also undergo health screenings at the border as well as additional screenings once they reach Chicago.
Many of the families and individuals seeking asylum, who began arriving in Chicago on August 31, faced long and difficult journeys from their homes. Some require medical care, including pre-natal care for pregnant women; treatment for malnourishment, dehydration, and asthma in children; foot injury and wound care; vaccinations; and chronic health condition management. They are also in need of mental health assessments and care to begin to recover from the traumas experienced on their journey.
"For weeks now, City, County and State leaders, in partnership with community organizations, have been on the frontlines to welcome migrants seeking sanctuary from traumatic situations in Venezuela and other Latin American countries," said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "That's because 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. 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."
To date, the state of Texas has been transporting asylum-seeking families and individuals to Illinois with no advance notice and with no coordination with the state of Illinois or the city of Chicago. The buses have been directed to drop their passengers at Union Station in Downtown Chicago despite requests from state and city officials that travelers be brought to Welcome Centers.
Gov. Pritzker has repeatedly called on Texas to treat these asylum seekers with dignity, to open the lines of communication with his office, and to stop trying to manufacture chaos for political purposes.