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7 more buses bring migrants to Chicago on Tuesday, tying record for most ever

There is not enough space or resources for influx of migrants, advocate says
There is not enough space or resources for influx of migrants, advocate says 03:18

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Seven buses carrying asylum seekers arrived in Chicago on Tuesday.

Office of Emergency Management and Communications spokeswoman Mary May confirmed some of those buses arrived Tuesday morning. The rest came later in the day. 

Migrants went on arriving on charter buses all day long at the Chicago Greyhound Bus Station, 630 W. Harrison St. School buses were also waiting on standby - since the city did not know exactly when or how many new arrivals they would be greeting.

An eighth bus had been expected, but was delayed and was not going to make it Tuesday. The eighth bus would have made for the most ever in one day since the influx of migrants began last summer.

With only seven buses, the number of arrivals ties a record for one day. That record was only set Sunday.

Each bus carried up to 50 people.

Migrant bus arrives in Chicago
A charter bus carrying asylum seekers arrived at the Chicago Greyhound Bus Station on Sept. 26, 2023. It was one of eight buses overall expected to arrive in the city, the most in one day since an influx of migrants began in late August 2022. Megan Hickey

Over the weekend, two buses also arrived from El Paso, Texas, the first time El Paso has sent migrants to Chicago since last December.

Chicago has now received 71 buses from that city. 

As of Tuesday, more than 15,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since last August.

The rate of arrivals has significantly ramped up since May. A total of 281 buses carrying migrants have arrived Aug. 31, 2022, with 172 of those arriving since May 12 -- including 60 so far this month alone.

As of Tuesday, nearly 9,000 migrants were still staying in 21 temporary shelters established by the city, with another 2,052 awaiting placement while staying in Chicago police stations, or at O'Hare and Midway airports.

OEMC said 380 new arrivals were waiting at O'Hare Tuesday, 16 are waiting at Midway, and 1,656 were waiting in police stations. 

We spoke to a man who just arrived from Venezuela with his wife and 14-year-old son. He said he had been traveling for a month and a half and was grateful for the help his family has received so far, although said it was a harrowing journey.

Edgar Palmera said he had no choice but to make the long journey from Venezuela. He said he came to work for a better future for his family - something he couldn't do back home.

Palmera told us he was one of about 40 to 50 new arrivals on a white charter bus who were dropped off in the South Loop and met by OEMC staff.

Meanwhile over the weekend, volunteer groups on the frontlines of the city's ongoing migrant crisis said they are scrambling to keep up.

For more than a year now, the effort to help asylum seekers has been a joint effort with agencies in Chicago - as well as churches and groups in the surrounding areas.

Volunteer groups across the board are overwhelmed - low on resources and just trying to keep up with demand as the flow of migrants shows no signs of slowing down.

"We don't know where they are going. We don't know where they're going to end up," said Erika Villegas of the Police Station Response Team, "and so everyone's kind of scrambling."

Migrant bus arrives in Chicago
As one of eight charter buses carrying migrants arrived at the Chicago Greyhound Bus Station on Sept. 26, 2023, several school buses were standing by, apparently waiting to take the arriving asylum seekers to temporary shelters or Chicago police stations. Megan Hickey

Villegas said her organization has felt the influx at every district.

"We are tired. We have exhausted a lot of our own resources," she said, "and so we are definitely feeling, really, the growing pains of this problem that we have in our city."

Villegas said the Police Station Response Team is always in need of water and fresh fruit at the police stations. 

Currently, the Deering (9th) District station, 3120 S. Halsted St., is housing the most people - 212 as of Tuesday morning. 

"Eight buses, I believe, arriving today. We were notified this morning," Villegas said. "So everyone scrambling a little bit trying to figure out what we're going to do."

Villegas said says viewers can help by donating to volunteer groups. The best donations for people to drop off at police stations are water and fresh fruit.

While volunteer groups appreciate clothing donations, Villegas said those are better to drop off at the "free stores" across the city.

"There are several free stores around the city," said Villegas, "and so connecting with some of those nonprofits that can better use some of those donations so that we can get them to the right people depending on their personal situation."

She noted one free store is located at 32nd and Halsted streets in Bridgeport.

Villegas also noted that the Southwest Collective is among the organizations helping with donations. 

Near-record number of buses full of migrants arrive in Chicago in one day 03:04

Volunteers: Space, resources for migrants are insufficient

Many of the volunteers have full-time jobs and families of their own. Yet they are still working around the clock to get the growing population the care and resources they need.

When CBS 2's Marybel González asked a volunteer why they're taking up the mission to help migrants, they said, "If not us, then who?"

"I never would have imagined when I started doing this work in April that I would still be doing it in September – and we would still be scrambling for space and resources," said Annie Gomberg.

There is a growing need at the Austin (15th) District, 5701 W. Madison St., which nearly 100 migrants are calling home. Gomberg leads the response team of volunteers there.

"I think this is the most critical mass we've had, and I don't see any way that we really get through this without some sort of release of the pressure valve of all of these people living in a really untenable situation," Gomberg said.

But that seems unlikely. At least 20 buses carrying migrants have arrived in Chicago since the weekend, and more are expected this week.

"Every police station that has space for migrants has people living there," Gomberg said.

At the 15th District station, nearly every inch of walkable space is covered with belongings. Makeshift tents were purchased with donations and the volunteers' own money.

"There's families with children sleeping under those tents - small children - on blankets and mats that we've put underneath them to make them more comfortable," said Gomberg.

When one of the migrants was feeling sick, Gomberg went out to buy a COVID test out of pocket for $20. She said there is not enough space, help, or resources.

"How are we going to get a thousand blankets in the next couple of days for all these new arrivals?" Gomberg said. "That's the level of volume that we're talking about."

As winter approaches, the situation is only becoming more dire.

"This is not what a Sanctuary City looks like, and how do we make this something that really is the vision of what we want Chicago to be for the future?" Gomberg said. "I don't think this is the best we can do. I really hope it's not."

This follows a busy week for the city of Chicago as officials navigate the migrant crisis. CBS 2 learned about Mayor Brandon Johnson's plan to create migrant base camps that are expected to go up across the city. The city has signed a $29 million contract with a private security firm to set up the tents, but has yet to announce where any of those camps will be built, or when work would begin.

Meantime, two aldermen want Chicago to rethink being a sanctuary city, and leave it up to voters to decide if the city should continue offering protections for undocumented immigrants.

Alds. Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Anthony Beale (9th) have sponsored a resolution to add a referendum to March 2024 primary ballots in Chicago, asking voters if the city should keep its sanctuary city designation.

Chicago's "Welcoming City Ordinance" bars police officers from cooperating with federal immigration agents; and prohibits city agencies from detaining anyone solely based on their immigration status, or transferring anyone to the custody of federal immigration officials solely for civil immigration enforcement. Unless otherwise required by state or federal law, the city also may not ask a person about their immigration status, or share that information with any other agency.

The proposal from Beale and Napolitano has yet to be introduced to the City Council, and likely will face stiff opposition from Mayor Brandon Johnson and his progressive allies on the council.

On the national level, the Biden administration also announced that it will now issue temporary protected status to Venezuelans who arrived before July 31 - giving them a pathway to work legally, which many would say will alleviate pressure on the city.

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