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Texas’ $12 million migrant busing program now sending asylum-seekers to Chicago

Nearly 9,000 asylum seekers have been bused to east coast cities

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Migrants hold Red Cross blankets after arriving at Union Station near the U.S. Capitol from Texas on buses on April 27, 2022, in Washington.

Migrants hold Red Cross blankets after arriving at Union Station near the U.S. Capitol from Texas on buses, April 27, 2022, in Washington. Now Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent a bus of migrants to Chicago, arriving late Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. The District of Columbia had requested National Guard assistance to help stem a “growing humanitarian crisis” prompted by thousands of migrants that have been sent to Washington by governors in Texas and Arizona.

Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the first bus of migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border has arrived in Chicago, the latest in a policy that so far has cost the Lone Star State over $12 million.

Nearly 9,000 asylum-seekers have been bused to East Coast cities, according to a statement from Abbott’s office — roughly 7,400 to Washington, D.C., and 1,500 to New York City.

The busing is a feature of “Operation Lone Star,” a strategy the governor says will “secure the border, stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas, and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry.”

“President Biden’s inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans —and Americans — at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” Abbott said in a statement.

However the policy has faced criticism, most recently from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who told CNN on Wednesday that Abbott’s lack of coordination with the federal government is throwing the immigration processing system “out of whack.”

“That lack of coordination wreaks problems in our very efficient processing,” Mayorkas said.

A $12 million policy: As of Aug. 9, Texas paid Wynne Transportation $12.7 million to charter buses for migrants, according to documents obtained by CNN, amounting to at least $1,400 per person.

By Aug. 17, the the state was able to solicit $167,828 in private donations, according to CNN — meaning taxpayers will have to shoulder a large part of Abbott’s program.

While awaiting a decision in their asylum cases, migrants typically need to pay for their own travel. But through Operation Lone Star, the migrants are bused to East Coast cities without charge.

Abbott’s office says they are transported once the state obtains written permission.

The first bus arrives in Chicago: On Wednesday evening, a bus carrying about 60 migrants arrived in Chicago’s Union Station, the first of what Abbott says will likely be many.

“To continue providing much-needed relief to our small, overrun border towns, Chicago will join fellow sanctuary cities Washington, D.C., and New York City as an additional drop-off location,” Abbott said in a statement. “Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.” 

A spokesperson for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded by saying Abbott was “without any shame or humanity,” calling the policy “racist practices of expulsion.”

“This is such an important moment for Chicago as a city (that) has been a sanctuary for thousands of newcomers. We are welcoming them and we will not turn our backs on those who ned our help the most,” the statement reads.