Kane County dismisses bipartisan push for statement on migrant busing

A train arrives Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at the Elburn Metra Station.

Although Kane County officials devised a process to help transport asylum-seekers dropped off in the county complete their destinations to Chicago, county board members will remain politically silent on the causes and solutions to the recent “rogue buses.”

Democrat and Republican board members toiled in recent weeks on proclamations expressing a spectrum of support for migrants, concern about the financial and social ramifications of random busing and shared frustration for federal inaction on immigration reform.

Those proclamations appear headed for the trash bin.

The county board deadlocked in an 11-11 vote at its most recent meeting on allowing a discussion and possible official proclamation stating the county’s position on the migrant busing situation. The absence of two members and the resulting tie vote quashed the proclamation push.

County board Chair Corinne Pierog opted not to break the tie, although she indicated she would not support discussion on the topic. She referenced a neutral statement crafted by members of the Metro West Council of Governments, which represents various Kane County municipalities.

The statement reads in part, “At this time, this municipality has taken no action to regulate or prohibit buses or prevent local hotels from housing migrants.”

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office also has opined that the county has no legal authority to impose penalties on bus companies that bring migrants into the county, even though several suburban municipalities have created such ordinances.

“I felt it best not to move this forward,” Pierog told the board of the proclamations the board members drafted. “We have no legal jurisdiction to declare anything about a sanctuary [community].”

Rick Williams joined his seven Republican colleagues on the 24-member county board in voting to have a discussion and take a position on migrant busing. They were joined by three Democrats.

Williams said his proclamation was to address what he sees as the underlying causes pushing migrant buses into his district and other places in the county.

“We have an open border policy,” Williams said. “We have a lack of enforcement of immigration laws. We have sanctuary states or cities [like Chicago], which encourages people who are trying to immigrate to the U.S. to not follow the proper channels and have the mistaken belief that they are going to be taken care of when they get here. In reality, we have human beings who are sleeping in a tent outside of a police station.”

The U.S. Border Patrol experienced 250,000 encounters with migrants crossing into the U.S. along the Mexican border in December. That is the highest monthly total on record, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. In January, the number of encounters fell by half to 124,000.

“I don’t think this issue is going away,” Williams said. “I have conversations with constituents and municipalities in my district that are concerned with what this means and how these people are cared for. It’s not designed to be anti-human or anti-immigration. It’s designed so these issues can be addressed at the federal level.”

Despite several board members, including Democrats, expressing frustration over the lack of federal action during meetings, the decision to abstain from even a symbolic proclamation means these sentiments will remain confined to YouTube recordings rather than formalized in county documentation.

Williams said he’s disappointed his fellow board members don’t want to encourage solutions to the problem.

“We pass proclamations which do not have the force or effect of law but give evidence of a position the county has taken so it’s known if the county is for or against something,” Williams said. “We have passed proclamations on social issues or legal issues that are affecting the county. So it’s disappointing that we can’t even have the discussion. I think this issue is going to have ramifications on elections across the country.”