Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday called up 75 members of the Illinois National Guard to help organize shelter, food and medical care for migrants arriving by bus from Texas.
The Democratic governor signed an emergency declaration to speed up procurement of necessary supplies as well as seek National Guard help with logistics.
About 500 people seeking asylum in the United States have been transported from the border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott since the end of last month. Thousands have also been shipped to New York City and Washington, D.C., Democratic-led cities serving as sanctuaries for immigrants.
Pritzker said buses arrive with little advance notice and that attempts to communicate with Texas colleagues go unheeded, which Pritzker says Abbott ordered.
“To Gov. Greg Abbott: Now is the time to stop trying to sow the seeds of chaos, to put aside politics and focus on human rights, communicate with us, have your state agencies call us back,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “Spare us the unnecessary drama and let us go about the work to resettle these asylum seekers.”
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Pritzker’s emergency declaration speeds up procurement of needed supplies and the National Guard will help provide services they need.
“We are now 11 buses deep, and we know from speaking with our counterparts in New York and D.C., this will not relent,” said Grace Hou, secretary of Human Services.
Last spring, Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, announced plans to send busloads of migrants, largely from Central and South America, to Washington, D.C., in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers by denying them a chance to seek asylum. Buses soon arrived in New York and in recent weeks, Chicago.
“This is about politics for him without regard to the fear and anguish and the challenges that it poses for these refugees,” Pritzker said.
Washington, D.C. sought the use of National Guard troops to help, but the Pentagon twice denied the request in August, saying it would weaken the readiness of the troops and that they did not have the training for direct contact with migrants to be able to provide food, sanitation or other support.
Illinois faces no such barrier. Governors of states have control of their National Guard troops. And officials in Illinois say they’re confident in the National Guard’s assistance after watching how hey set up sites and distributed vaccines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.