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Gov. Pritzker calls on President Biden to increase federal support for "overwhelming" migrant crisis

Pritzker sends letter to Biden asking for more help with migrant crisis
Pritzker sends letter to Biden asking for more help with migrant crisis 01:08

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker is calling on President Joe Biden to provide more federal funding to help the thousands of asylum seekers who have been brought to Chicago and to take over the busing of newly arrived migrants from the border to other parts of the country.

"Governors and mayors from border states have shipped people to our state like cargo in a dehumanizing attempt to score political points. The people of Illinois are kind and generous. We believe in the fundamental right of every human, especially those facing persecution, to find refuge and live with dignity in this great country of ours," Pritzker wrote. "But as the numbers being transported to Chicago are accelerating, the humanitarian crisis is overwhelming our ability to provide aid to the refugee population."

As of Tuesday morning, more than 17,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago since last August, mainly from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott continues to protest the Biden administration's immigration policy by sending migrants to self-proclaimed sanctuary cities.

The rate of arrivals has significantly ramped up since May. A total of 328 buses carrying migrants have arrived since Aug. 31, 2022, with 220 arriving since May 12 – including more than 40 in the past week alone.

Pritzker said the federal government's lack of aid or coordination "has created an untenable situation for Illinois." He said the Biden administration needs to place one person in charge of working with state and local governments to help manage the influx of migrants into the U.S.

"First and foremost, I recommend that there be one person in the federal government who works directly for you in the White House who can lead the oversight of our nation's efforts at the border. Right now, we have too many different federal department contacts — who are uncoordinated with one another — that handle various programs related to this humanitarian crisis. A single office with an identified leader must be assigned to work for the cities and states across the silos of government to manage the challenges we all face," Pritzker wrote.

The governor said the state already has dedicated more than $330 million to provide humanitarian aid for newly arrived asylum seekers, "and that amount is increasing each day."

"That's a massive amount of money for a state still overcoming the health and economic effects of COVID-19. Add to that the over $100 million the city of Chicago contributed. Though we have found temporary housing in existing buildings for a majority of the refugees, we are challenged to find additional housing for the continuous flow of people who keep coming and are now forced to sleep in police stations and on sidewalks," Pritzker said.

While the governor praised Biden for moving to allow nearly half a million Venezuelan migrants in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status, which would enable them to apply for deportation protections and work permits, Pritzker called on Biden to waive application fees for those who can't afford them. He also asked Biden to speed up the timeline for authorizing work permits – a process that can take up to 6 months – to allow newly arrived migrants to get jobs more quickly.

Pritzker also said the federal government "must take over the interior coordination of routing buses of newly arrived migrants across the country" to ensure state and local officials know how many migrants are arriving and when.

"The federal government must stop abdicating responsibility once CBP releases migrants into the interior of the country. Your administration has the capacity, resources, and legal recourse to do this right now," Pritzker wrote.

The governor is also seeking more federal funding to help state and local governments, nonprofits, and volunteer groups to help provide temporary housing, food, and other social services for migrants.

"The burden of funding the state and city have taken on is not sustainable only by our budgets," he wrote.

A White House spokesperson said, "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. We have moved to accelerate the processing of work permits – working to decrease the median processing time from many from 90 to 30 days. We have sent more than 1.4 million emails and text messages to migrants that are eligible to work, reminding them to apply for work permits. And we have provided communities across the country who are supporting recently arrived migrants with all of the $1 billion in grant funding that Congress appropriated. Meanwhile, House Republicans continue to block the reform the immigration system needs and the $4 billion we requested to address the immediate needs of DHS to safely and humanely manage the Southwest Border and support communities across the country. We will continue to work closely with Illinois and states and cities across the country."  

White House officials said they had a productive conversation with Pritzker, Mayor Brandon Johnson, and their staffs over the weekend on efforts to support newly arrived migrants.

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