With buses coming to suburbs and Chicago, state launching intake center for migrants

FILE - Run by a private firm hired by the city, migrants stay in a makeshift shelter at O'Hare International Airport, Sept. 20, 2023, in Chicago. Five mayors from around the U.S. want a meeting with President Joe Biden to ask for help controlling the continued arrival of large groups of migrants to their cities. The mayors of Denver, Chicago, Houston, New York and Los Angeles say in a letter to Biden that there has been little to no coordination, support or resources and that is leading to a crisis.  (AP Photo/Erin Hooley, File Photo)

Illinois will launch an intake center in Chicago for migrants being transported here from Texas, state officials announced Wednesday.

The facility will be within Chicago’s city-run bus landing zone near the Maxwell Street Market on the Near West Side. Six heated tents are under construction and should open within weeks, according to a news release.

Arriving migrants will be able to receive services, meet sponsors or get help getting to other destinations.

Chicago-based New Life Centers and Catholic Charities have been getting state funding to help migrants at the bus landing zone. The new intake center will allow services and staffing to expand, state officials said.

“The state is determined to use its limited resources as efficiently as possible, helping asylum seekers settle in Illinois and achieve independence,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in the announcement. “We will continue to ensure that they are met with dignity and compassion, while we call for increased coordination and funding from the federal government to provide a federal solution to this federal challenge.”

In addition to the intake center, work is continuing on a shelter for migrants in the Little Village neighborhood, on the site of a former CVS pharmacy. Until it’s ready, the state is partnering with New Life Centers to operate a temporary shelter at an unspecified Chicago hotel to support families that arrived during the recent holiday season, according to the release.

Thousands of migrants sent to Illinois from Texas on buses have been dropped off in Bartlett, Elmhurst, Lisle, Lombard, Naperville, Fox River Grove and other Chicago-area communities in recent weeks. The most recent group arrived Wednesday afternoon at Palatine’s Metra station; local police got everyone back aboard the bus and redirected the driver to Chicago before anyone could board a train, according to an email from Palatine police.

Most of the suburban stops have been at Metra stations, and most of the riders subsequently boarded trains headed to Chicago. Some people got into cars instead of boarding trains, authorities have said.

In response, South Barrington, Elburn, Rosemont and other suburbs have banned unscheduled bus deliveries, threatening fines and vehicle seizures for violators. The Buffalo Grove village board took such action Tuesday; Chicago has implemented a ban, too.