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Mayor Lori Lightfoot demands Colorado stop busing migrants to Chicago in letter to governor

by staff

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded Colorado stop busing migrants to Chicago Saturday in a letter sent to the state’s governor, Jared Polis.

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Colorado has bused hundreds of migrants to Chicago since December, the letter said. The city does not have capacity to adequately support more migrants, Lightfoot wrote in the letter she co-penned with New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

“You must stop busing migrants to Chicago and New York,” the letter said. “These actions do not live up to the values of a proclaimed welcoming state and should stop immediately.”

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The demand comes after Texas already bused 3,854 migrants to Chicago since spring 2022, Lightfoot said. The city has since publicly welcomed the arriving people while struggling to meet their essential needs and criticizing the practice of busing migrants as inhumane.

Lightfoot asked state legislators from Chicago last week for $54 million to help fund emergency services for migrants and asylum-seekers, saying the funding necessary to take care of the arriving people will soon run out. On Thursday, the mayor scrapped plans to use a Woodlawn elementary school as a shelter for migrants after protests.

Around 36,400 asylum-seekers have gone through New York City’s emergency intake system in the last year, the letter said.

Before Colorado’s first bus of migrants arrived, Chicago officials told Colorado officials that the city had no room to accommodate more arrivals, Lightfoot and Adams wrote.

“The buses have arrived, without any regard to either city’s ability to appropriately shelter them,” they wrote. “Although we share the concerns of accommodating the flood of asylum-seekers, overburdening other cities is not the solution.”

Polis, a wealthy businessman, was elected Colorado Governor in 2018. The Democrat was a member of the libertarian conservative Liberty Caucus while a congressman.

He did not immediately respond to the Tribune’s request for comment Saturday afternoon, though he has previously said busing helps migrants by getting them to their desired destinations.

Lightfoot and Adams pushed back on those claims, saying many migrants from Colorado are arriving without any ties to family or community networks in the city. Their letter noted the cities hope to work with Colorado to reunite migrants with loved ones when family is involved.

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Colorado capital Denver has a national reputation for the services it provides unhoused people, Lightfoot and Adams said.

“It is unusual that you would deprive new arrivals from accessing those resources. In fact, many new arrivals from Colorado had been in your care for weeks, receiving services, and establishing connections only to be uprooted with a promise the receiving cities cannot keep,” they wrote.

Because people who do arrive in Chicago from Colorado will struggle to find shelter and other services, the busing “is wrong and further victimizes these most vulnerable individuals,” the letter said.

jsheridan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter: @jakesheridan_

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