McHenry City Council passes ordinance aiming to discourage buses from dropping off migrants in town

Mayor Wayne Jett hopes buses ‘bypass McHenry’

Mary Mauch asked questions about McHenry's anti-bus ordinance at a special council meeting held on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. Media outlet crews attended the meeting and raced to get Mauch's comments on audio.

With northern Illinois towns seeing buses full of immigrants coming from Texas left at Metra stations or other businesses, McHenry on Friday became the first McHenry County town to pass an ordinance designed to prevent it.

The McHenry City Council on Friday quickly approved an ordinance that allows the city to impound buses when groups of people are dropped off with no specific destination and no warning.

The ordinance, approved by a unanimous vote, became enforceable as soon as it was posted in the city’s code after the meeting, Assistant City Clerk Monte Johnson said.

“The City Council and I are looking to maintain the quality of life” for McHenry residents while also “being compassionate to others,” Mayor Wayne Jett said before the vote.

The ordinance adds a new chapter to the city’s Business and License Regulations code. It requires the operators of commercial motor vehicles that do not offer a regularly scheduled service to coordinate with the city any drop-off of six or more people.

A transportation company that does not coordinate that drop off with the city would see the vehicle impounded after a preliminary city hearing with the chief of police or a designee.

The fee, or bond, to get the vehicle back is $10,000. Towing and storage fees also would apply.

Third Ward Alderman Frank McClatchey spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“This is a step in the right direction,” McClatchey said, adding that he hopes additional communities would follow with similar laws.

“We are talking about human lives here,” he said. “I would like to see it be $20,000, $30,000″ per incident.

One resident, speaking to the council about the ordinance, asked for clarification on what it called for.

“You have no intention to house them, feed them, clothe them?” Mary Mauch said.

As a substitute teacher, she said, she’s had students who “on the first day of school can’t speak anything.”

Jett clarified that if a bus company were to coordinate with McHenry, the goal would be to get the riders to their final destination.

“Part of this ordinance, it gives the opportunity – hopefully – to get them to bypass the city of McHenry,” Jett said.

The city announced Tuesday its intention to vote on an ordinance.

Since then, Jett said he has had a handful of calls and emails, with the calls coming from media outlets and emails that were in support of the ordinance.

Woodstock is due to meet Tuesday evening and is expected to consider a similar ordinance.

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