Migrants flown to O'Hare airport on private plane from Texas

As the number of migrants in Chicago surpasses 26,000, city officials are cracking down on bus drivers who are violating local laws. Now, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is changing tactics.

For the first time, Texas officials chartered a private plane to fly migrants to Chicago on Tuesday night, according to Mayor Brandon Johnson's office.

There could be additional flights on the way, but city officials likely won’t be notified until they arrive.

At approximately 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, police at O'Hare International Airport were notified that a private plane chartered by the Texas Department of Emergency Management landed and left more than 100 asylum seekers at Signature Flight.

The flight originated from El Paso, Texas.

Two unidentified individuals who flew with the plane reportedly fled Signature Flight and left in an Uber before police arrived, according to a statement from the City of Chicago.

Officials confirm that this marks the first time a private plane has been chartered to fly migrants to Chicago.

The move came at the direction of Abbott, who posted on X, formerly Twitter, that Chicago "started obstructing and targeting our busing mission."

Earlier this week, Johnson blasted the Texas governor for his handling of the migrant situation.

He also announced harsher penalties for bus drivers who don't follow guidelines set forth by the city, including impounding and towing buses that try to skirt the law.

"They’re just dropping off people anywhere. Do you understand how raggedy and how evil that is? You’re just going to put people on a bus and just take them somewhere and drop them off in the middle of the night, and then you want to hold us accountable for something that’s happening at the border? It’s sickening," Johnson said during a press conference on Monday.

Abbott’s spokesperson released the following statement on Wednesday:

"Because Mayor Johnson is failing to live up to his city's ‘Welcoming City’ ordinance by targeting migrant buses from Texas, we are expanding our operation to include flights to Chicago, like the Biden Administration has been doing across the country. Governor Abbott launched the border bus mission in April 2022 to provide support to our overrun and overwhelmed border communities as the Biden Administration leaves thousands of migrants in their towns. Until President Biden steps up and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue taking historic action to help our local partners respond to this Biden-made crisis."

Local leaders, including Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Ward), are calling it ‘trafficking.’

"We have a governor that now openly and defiantly is saying that he is going to commit human trafficking to show Chicagoans and teach us a lesson. It is time that the federal government opens a criminal investigation," said Sigcho Lopez, chair of Chicago’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate.

Meanwhile, Tinley Park on Tuesday passed its own set of ordinances discouraging buses from stopping there.

"A lot of these rogue buses are bypassing the city and just trying to dump these people off," said Pat Carr, village manager of Tinley Park. "This is about making the bus companies be accountable."

The Village of Tinley Park has not received any migrant buses, but if it does, bus companies will be required to fill out an application requesting permission and identify everyone on board for background checks.

"If you plan on coming up this way, you have an ordinance and a procedure that has to be done, that accounts for our passengers and assures us that you’re providing them a safe place to stay," said Carr. "They have to know who they’re taking up. Not only is that for the safety of the other passengers on the bus, but the communities they are arriving in."

Johnson’s spokesperson says bus companies have already tried dropping migrants off in Rosemont, Cicero, and Schiller Park.

Last week, the city towed and impounded a bus from Eagle Pass, Texas that did not have a permit.

Johnson’s office says they are working to find shelter space for the migrants currently staying at O'Hare.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 14,094 new arrivals in 27 active shelters across the city. About 300 migrants were awaiting placement, with 18 waiting at CPD districts, and 296 at O’Hare and Midway.