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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls on Biden to step up action on the migrant crisis

In a letter Monday, Pritzker knocked the White House for a "lack of intervention and coordination at the border."
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CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday fired off a letter to President Joe Biden about an “untenable” migrant crisis in the state, calling for an overhaul to the system and blasting the White House for a “lack of intervention and coordination at the border.”

Pritzker, a Democrat, said the state’s resources were beyond strained after Texas officials bused more than 15,000 migrants to Illinois in the past year. 

“Unfortunately, the welcome and aid Illinois has been providing to these asylum seekers has not been matched with support by the federal government,” Pritzker wrote. “Most critically, the federal government’s lack of intervention and coordination at the border has created an untenable situation for Illinois.” 

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 09: A migrant father from Venezuela feeds his 15-month-old son in the lobby of a police station where they have been staying with other migrant families since their arrival to the city on May 09, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a state of emergency on Tuesday amid a surge in migrant arrivals which began in August 2022 when the first group of immigrants were bused from Texas to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. According to Lightfoot's office, more than 8,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since last year, with the city currently reaching "a breaking point." About 500 migrants have reportedly been living in the lobbies of police precincts around the city where they sleep on the floors and rely on food donations. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A migrant from Venezuela feeds his 15-month-old son in the lobby of a police station in Chicago on May 9.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

On Sunday, Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, as well as Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and White House Senior Advisor Tom Perez, all engaged in what the White House on Monday described as a productive conversation about the issue.

The administration has given the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois more than $46 million in grant funding to support recently arrived migrants, according to the White House.

“President Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform since his first day in office. Without the help of Congress, the Administration has been taking action: since May 12, we have removed or returned over a quarter million individuals,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a statement.

Fernández Hernández added that the administration has moved to accelerate processing of work permits. “We will continue to work closely with Illinois and states and cities across the country,” he added.

Fueling the letter is what Pritzker described as a “humanitarian crisis” that strains adequate housing for people who are taking refuge in police stations and even on sidewalks, as well as medical help and other social services, he wrote.

Pritzker recommended that the White House designate one person to work closely with the Oval Office to be the point person on the migrant issue, saying there is too much red tape for states to work with on the federal level. 

But Pritzker went further, asking that the federal government intervene by helping manage where migrants end up. 

“Allowing just one state to lay the burden upon a certain few states run by Democrats is untenable,” Pritzker wrote. “We are a nation that has welcomed immigrants and refugees since our founding, and we have done so in a bipartisan manner. It cannot be that just a few cities and states should now bear the cost of this effort alone.” 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has sounded the alarm about the same issue in his system, saying migrants were overwhelming city resources. Last month, Adams escalated his remarks about the situation in his city, where 110,000 migrants have arrived in the last year, saying the crisis "will destroy New York City."

Following pressure from Adams and others, Biden recently granted temporary legal status to Venezuelans who have lived in the U.S. since July. That meant that hundreds of thousands of migrants were granted the right to obtain work and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation.