November 29, 2022

Migrants sent to Illinois deserve a chance

I filled in hosting a morning radio show in Springfield last week and I was shocked and dismayed that caller after caller seemed to treat people who are seeking asylum in the U.S. as something less than human.

Let’s clear up a couple of things. When someone crosses the border illegally, whether sneaking across the Rio Grande or hiding in the trunk of a car, they’re breaking the law. They should be arrested, punished and they should be deported.

The hundreds of people who the Texas governor has shipped to Chicago are not here illegally. They have fled places such as socialist Venezuela, are running from drug cartels in Mexico, or are fleeing central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to avoid a life of squalor and violence. They have all (as far as I have been told) applied for asylum in the United States. It’s a legal process that is akin to coming to our front door, knocking, and asking for our help.

It’s over 1,500 miles from El Salvador to the border crossing at McAllen, Texas. Some of the migrants are making that trek on foot. They’re desperate for help. Yes, we need to secure the border, we need to have more border agents, and we need to stop people from getting into the country illegally. All should agree on that.

Immigrants are the fabric of our state and country. My ancestors fled Germany in 1868 ahead of the Franco-Prussian War and wound up on a piece of land in central Illinois. There was significant Irish population growth in Chicago during the Great Famine of the 1840s. Thousands of Scandinavian immigrants came to Illinois in the 1850s. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you came from one of those groups.

While the Texas governor has unceremoniously loaded these legal migrants on busses and shipped them to Chicago, we should welcome them to Illinois with open arms. Upon arrival, some of the migrants have been sent to hotels and shelters in the suburbs. That, of course, has set off some NIMBY mayors and isolationists that don’t like the fact these brown folks have shown up in their town.

Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso, who ran and lost a primary for Congress as a Republican in June, complained the village didn’t get enough notice the migrants were being taken to a hotel in his community, but in the process, didn’t sound particularly welcoming.

“Our laws are based on due process, on notice – on a right to speak up before something happens to you. We were completely blindsided and the idea that neither the city nor the state thought to call the mayor or the administrator of our village to me is almost intentional to just do this to us,” Grasso said recently.

The dog whistle is strong in that statement. While the Pritzker administration and charities who provide services to these migrants are scrambling, they’re more focused on finding beds for people to sleep in than they are notifying residents of a tony suburb that a local hotel will have some guests for a few nights.

The local communities aren’t asked to provide any services or provide any relief to the migrants. Some will eventually be placed in schools, I’m sure, and use hospitals and resources when they find a more permanent place to live, but that isn’t right away.

These aren’t the “drug dealers and rapists” Donald Trump alleged immigrants to be in 2015. They’re families and senior citizens and babies who are desperately trying to find a new life. They’ve traveled thousands of miles because they need our help. Whether in Lemont, LaSalle or Laredo, they have every right to be here.

Where would you be if America hadn’t welcomed your ancestors?

Don’t these migrants deserve the same chance?

• Patrick Pfingsten is a former journalist and Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter. Read more at www.theillinoize.com or contact him at patrick@theillinoize.com.

Patrick Pfingsten
Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten

Patrick Pfingsten is a former award-winning journalist and Republican strategist who writes The Illinoize statewide political newsletter.