Texas Gov. Abbott responds to Mayor Lightfoot’s letter about migrant situation


Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP

Texas Governor Greg Abbott answers questions during a press conference at the Texas Department of Public Safety Weslaco Regional Office on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas.

“These people are humans [and] these people are traumatized already.”

President of the Little Village Community Council, Baltazar Enriquez said in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send more migrants to Chicago last week.

On Sunday, April 30, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent a letter to Abbott, asking him to stop sending asylum seekers to Chicago because of the strain on city resources.

“I am, yet again, appealing to your better nature and asking that you stop this inhumane and dangerous action,” Lightfoot said in the letter. “Since we began responding to the arrival of migrants sent by your delegation in August 2022, we have shouldered the responsibility of caring for more than 8,000 men, women and children with no resources of their own”. 

The city is running out of places to house asylum seekers and many are currently staying at police stations or shelters set up by the city. 

The city of Chicago spends more than $20 million a month to support the asylum seekers, according to ABC-7.

In a press release from 49th Ward alderman Maria Hadden, the amount of people coming has increased recently. 

“We went from an average of 10-15 new arrivals a day over the previous months to nearly 100 people arriving a day in the last week,” Hadden said. “Leone Beach Park field house was reopened this past Wednesday as a respite center for families with children to more comfortably wait for shelter space to open up. There is a capacity for 100 people and it is currently full.” 

In a Joint Committee on Budget and Government Operations meeting about the issue on April 28, several officials expressed concern over the use of police departments as shelters. 

“I have about 12 families at the 1st District police station at 18th and State,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell in the meeting.“These families are with children, sitting on floors. This is not safe, and it’s not the way to treat people. To prohibit the policemen from doing the work they need to do instead of being social workers.”

Human rights and the comfort of asylum seekers is a concern of Lightfoot’s.

“Nearly all the migrants have been in dire need of food, water, and clothing and many needed extensive medical care. Instead, these individuals and families were packed onto buses and shipped across the country like freight without regard to their personal circumstances,” Lightfoot wrote. 

On Monday, Abbott wrote a letter responding to Lightfoot.

“The ongoing border and humanitarian crisis that Texas and the entire United States are grappling with is a direct result of President Biden’s open-border policies,” wrote Abbott. “President Biden is preparing to open the floodgates by ending Title 42 expulsions next week, and Texas is on the frontlines of this catastrophe.”

According to Enriquez, the migrant crisis has become an issue of politics instead of human rights.

“The Republicans and Democrats are using these people as political pawns,” he said.

Abbott referred to the immigrants as “illegal” several times throughout his letter, which DePaul political science professor Kathleen Arnold said is a “racist inaccuracy.” 

“It is not illegal to seek asylum,” Arnold said. “Venezuelan arrivals were not sneaking over the border; and migration is civil and not criminal. He is trying to characterize human beings as inherently illegal simply because they lack documentation and they have fled a repressive government.”

Title 42, first enacted in 1944, allows the government to deport immigrants if they come from a country, or have recently been in a country, with communicable disease. It gained much media attention and was widely used by the former Donald Trump’s administration starting in March 2020 with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to PBS News. It has been highly controversial because it stops people who crossed the border while undocumented from declaring asylum once they arrive. Title 42 is set to end on May 11.

“As the mayor of a self-declared sanctuary city, it is ironic to hear you complain about Chicago’s struggle to deal with a few thousand illegal immigrants, which is a fraction of the record-high numbers we deal with in Texas on a regular basis,” wrote Abbott. 

Texas is the second most populous state in the country with a population of over 30 million people. Chicago’s population is less than three million people. In Texas, Border Patrol counts 900 to 1,200 people crossing into Texas daily.

“If you truly want to “work together to find a real solution” to this border crisis gripping our nation, you must call on the Biden Administration to do its job by securing our border, repelling the illegal immigrants flooding into our communities, classifying the Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, and intercepting the deadly fentanyl that is endangering our country,” Abbott wrote. “Until Biden secures the border to stop the inflow of mass migration, Texas will continue this necessary program.” 

When mayor-elect Johnson gets inaugurated, he will need to manage the humanitarian crisis.

“Johnson should commit to allowing civil society groups like the Resurrection Project to take the lead—as Lightfoot was mostly doing—and tell the City what these individuals and families need. Johnson might also have to ask other mayors in friendly (i.e. sanctuary) cities to help with housing and resources but not by using tricks, forced transportation, or violating the rights of the refugee as Abbott has done,” Arnold said.