By Travis Caldwell, Andy Rose and Omar Jimenez, CNN
The state of Texas, which for several months has bussed thousands of newly arrived migrants at the US-Mexico border to New York City and Washington, DC, has set a new metropolitan area as a destination: Chicago.
Undocumented migrants on board a charter bus from Texas arrived in Chicago Wednesday night, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
“To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C. and New York City as an additional drop-off location,” Abbott said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot “loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status,” Abbott said, “and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”
When Texas’ bus program began in April, Lightfoot tweeted, “I’m appalled by the behavior Texas Governor Abbott has displayed.”
In a statement Wednesday night, Lightfoot’s spokesperson said, “Chicago is and will continue to be a welcoming city. We are collaborating across various City departments and with local, state and community partners to ensure everyone who arrives in Chicago is greeted and treated with dignity and respect.”
City officials maintain that temporary shelter solutions for those arriving from Texas will be found and support will be provided.
Abbott’s decision to send migrants elsewhere is the latest salvo in an increasingly strained relationship toward the Biden administration over how to handle the thousands of people arriving at the nation’s border seeking asylum or entry.
More than 8,000 asylum seekers — all of whom have been willing passengers, Texas officials say — have made trips to New York City and Washington, DC, as the state proceeds with “Operation Lone Star,” an initiative officials say is designed to better secure the border that has come under scrutiny since its inception.
“The busing mission is providing much-needed relief to our overwhelmed border communities,” the governor’s office said Friday. “Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border.”
New York City has received record numbers of migrants this week and more buses are expected, a spokesperson for the mayor’s Office of Immigration told CNN Saturday. Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials have accused Abbott’s administration of forcing people onto buses and have bemoaned the lack of coordination.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN last week that Abbott’s efforts are throwing the federal system for processing migrants “out of whack” and criticized the governor for not coordinating with federal authorities.
Plans are underway for busing migrants to additional cities from Texas, Abbott said, but he did not specify Chicago in comments earlier Wednesday.
Figures released to CNN this week by the Texas Division of Emergency Management in response to an open records request showed the state had spent more than $12 million on the busing program as of August 9. The governor’s office has solicited private donations to help defray the cost of the buses, but has received only $167,828 as of August 17.
Texas is not alone among state governments choosing to bus migrants cross-country. Since May, more than 1,500 migrants on board 43 buses have departed from Arizona to Washington, DC, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office told CNN. Depending on demand, the state is sending buses to Washington at a rate of around two to three per week, the governor’s office said.
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CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Zenebou Sylla contributed to this report.