Watch CBS News

350 more migrants head to Chicago after Texas sends plane to Rockford

350 more migrants headed to Chicago after Texas sends plane to Rockford
350 more migrants headed to Chicago after Texas sends plane to Rockford 03:39

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CBS) -- A plane carrying 350 migrants from Texas landed in Rockford early Sunday, and the asylum seekers were then sent to Chicago.

According to the city of Rockford, after the plane landed around 1 a.m., those onboard were immediately put onto buses to Chicago's "landing zone" in the West Loop.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, who helped coordinate efforts on the ground at the Rockford airport, said local officials were notified Saturday afternoon that the migrants were coming.

"They did give us time to prepare, and we did prepare a plan," he said. "What the problem was was they said they were going to get here around 9 or 9:30 [p.m.], and actually it was later. It was like 1:30 in the morning."

Chicago city officials said they were not notified of the flight until they got a heads-up from Rockford. Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications said 350 migrants were on the private chartered plane, which originated in San Antonio.

The asylum seekers then boarded buses chartered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and the buses dropped the migrants off in various suburbs.

"We actually escorted them from Winnebago County on I-90 through Boone County, and then on into McHenry County, and that's where we dropped off and felt they were safe, and then they moved on to, allegedly, Chicago," Caruana said.

Chicago officials said the buses dropped off the migrants in various suburbs before boarding trains or other transportation to Chicago.

As of Sunday morning, a total of 572 migrants, including those from the flight to Rockford, were waiting for placement at one of Chicago's 27 migrant shelters - 53 at police stations, 241 at O'Hare International Airport, and 278 at the city's new designated landing zone for asylum seekers.

Many migrants who arrived at the landing zone were placed on CTA buses that served as temporary warming shelters while asylum seekers waited to find a spot in a brick-and-mortar shelter.

Hundreds of migrants arrived in Chicago on a snowy New Year's Eve with no coats, some in flip-flops, and nowhere to go.

City officials said they expected 14 buses carrying migrants to arrive in Chicago on Sunday, including nine from Rockford. 

Sunday's flight was the second time in two weeks Abbott has chartered a private flight to send migrants to Chicago. On Dec. 19, a private plane dropped off about 100 asylum seekers at O'Hare.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson says Texas governor creating "chaos" with migrant transport 10:39

Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, Mayor Brandon Johnson criticized Abbott for continuing to send migrants to the Chicago area without coordinating with the city or other suburbs where they've been sent.

"Governor Abbott is determined to continue to sow seeds of chaos," Johnson said. "Now he's taken on this very dangerous task of placing individuals on airplanes and flying them into our very cities. This is certainly a matter of not just our national security, but it's the type of chaos that this governor is committed to administering."

Caruana agreed better communication is needed from those sending migrants to the Chicago area to prevent these situations.

"This is something that can be coordinated with the leaders of Winnebago County and the leaders in Chicago, and make sure that this goes very very smooth," he said. "I feel it did go smooth, but I want to have a pre-plan if this happens again."

Johnson also repeated his call for more federal assistance in responding to the migrant crisis.

"Comprehensive immigration reform would certainly transform this situation. It solves this crisis. What we have said repeatedly is that we need Congress to act to provide resources that are needed in order to carry out this mission," Johnson said.

Hundreds of migrants arrive to Chicago after being flown to Rockford from Texas 01:37

Abbott's office has blamed Chicago's crackdown on buses that have been bringing migrants to Chicago without following the city's rules. Earlier this month, the City Council approved stricter penalties for what the Johnson administration has described as "rogue bus operators" for violations such as failing to notify the city within the proper timeframe and not dropping off migrants at designated locations. Violators are subject to fines of up to $3,000, and buses that violate Chicago's rules could be impounded.

That crackdown prompted Abbott to start sending migrants to Chicago by plane, and his office promised more are coming.

Two unscheduled buses also dropped off migrants in west suburban Lombard and Wheaton on Sunday. Chicago's suburbs have been on the receiving end of migrant arrivals in recent weeks after the Chicago City Council approved the crackdown on so-called "rogue" buses.

Following Chicago's footsteps, several suburbs have also begun increasing penalties for buses carrying and dropping off migrants without prior notice - including Aurora, South Barrington, and Rosemont.

Buffalo Grove and Oak Lawn also are working on approving ordinances to prevent unscheduled arrivals. Buffalo Grove is expected to discuss the issue on Tuesday, while Oak Lawn will take it up next week.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.