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Elk Grove Village mayor takes Illinois, Chicago to task after CTA buses full of migrants from Texas arrive

CBS Chicago 9/11/2022 Shardaa Gray

ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.  (CBS) – The mayor of Elk Grove Village called out Mayor Lori Lightfoot Saturday after two Chicago Transit Authority buses filled with 90 migrants from Texas arrived in that northwest suburb.

The migrants were dropped off at the local La Quinta Hotel with some staying at the hotel indefinitely, while others were to find shelter elsewhere.

As CBS 2's Shardaa Gray reported, a tense situation has resulted.

The Illinois Department of Human Services said their goal is to make sure some the migrants are in a save haven with food, water, and shelter. Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson supports the goal, but he said he is upset because he was not notified.

"Why are they coming to Elk Grove?" Johnson said. "Why not Chicago?"

Johnson has been trying to get answers to that question since Friday afternoon.

"Unfortunately, it's more of what we have not been told," he said.

Johnson said the State of Illinois reached out to the village around 1:30 p.m. Friday, letting them know 90 migrants will be coming from Texas on a bus. It was unclear what time they would be in the suburb and where they would stay.

"We started doing some homework. The State of Texas has no clue where Elk Grove Village is," Johnson said. "They were not going to Elk Grove Village. They were going to the city of Chicago."

The arrival of the migrants Friday was delayed after village officials began making inquiries to local, county, state, and federal agencies to gain a better understanding of the situation.

The news that migrants were being sent to the village came with no prior notification that the State's plan for welcoming migrants included sending them to hotels in suburban communities, according to Johnson.

A news release from Elk Grove Village also said the news of the migrants' impending arrival came with no direction from the state, county, or City of Chicago authorities with respect to how municipalities are expected to handle the unanticipated situation, according to village officials.

Johnson was quick to criticize Mayor Lightfoot.

"She wants to probably say politically: 'I'm a sanctuary city. I welcome you with open arms.' But when reality checks, if five bus loads shows up in her city, she can't handle it. So let's give them to Elk Grove Village," he said. "That's wrong."

A few days ago, dozens of migrants were bused to west suburban Burr Ridge, where they are living in a hotel.

Mayor Gary Grasso has also complained about communication with the City of Chicago and State of Illinois. He sent an updated statement Saturday saying, "Until late Friday, neither the Governor's office, Cook County, nor the City of Chicago reached out to the Village."

Meanwhile, Elk Grove Village officials have been in close communication with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the Cook County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security to gain a better understanding of myriad issues that have arisen since the Village was notified of the impending arrival of the migrants, a news release said. 

Village residents Saturday got a robocall about the arrival of the migrants. Johnson also reassured residents that the Village is ready for the arrival of the migrants and will continue to monitor the situation closely, but repeatedly expressed disappointment in how the matter was handled.

"We're not against migrants. We're not against helping them," Johnson said. "But we should work together. Our frustration is, no well-advance knowledge, no involvement in communication discussing how we can handle it."

We reached out to the Illinois Department of Human Services about the lack of communication.  We're told they're working on a minute-by-minute situation and their priority is to house, clothe, and feed the refugees.

When asked why the state didn't notify the Village of Elk Grove, they blamed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"He's been saying for weeks he's going to send busloads of people to Chicago," Mayor Johnson said. "For them to say, 'We're unprepared for this,' is not talking with a straight tongue."

Late Saturday, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois released this joint statement that again blamed the State of Texas for the situation:

"The City, along with County, State, and Federal agencies, are working closely together to welcome and coordinate the safe passage of all newly arriving migrants recently transported from Texas.

"We continue to assess this rapidly-evolving situation and respond to the needs of each individual. 

"The lack of information and cooperation from the State of Texas has made it incredibly challenging, however, we remain fully committed to assisting each individual, providing human services and connecting them with family and friends while here in the City of Chicago, Cook County, and across Illinois during this transition."

Mayor Lightfoot also personally blasted Gov. Abbott for a lack of communication – calling it a disregard for human lives.

"You don't treat people with this lack of respect; lack of dignity – putting them on buses to an unknown destination with very little food; very little water," Mayor Lightfoot said. "They have very little of what they need when they're on these multiple-hour cross-country bus trips."

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