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Pritzker hopes Chicago will spend more money on migrant crisis

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(The Center Square) – Using taxpayer dollars, the state of Illinois and Cook County have made commitments to provide direct financial support to migrants who have arrived in Chicago from the open southern U.S. border.

The city is considering an additional $70 million.

In February, the Pritzker administration and Cook County announced direct funding commitments for the issue in the coming fiscal year that begins this summer. It was unclear how much, if any additional tax dollars the city would pledge.

The city of Chicago is expected to vote Wednesday on appropriating $70 million of taxpayer funds to fill any funding holes the county and state aren’t covering. Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledges there are elected officials who don’t think that the state should care for the people that are “being shipped here by the Texas governor.”

Since August 2022, more than 35,000 non-citizen migrants have arrived to Chicago from the southern U.S. border where local officials are inundated with the millions who’ve crossed under the Biden administration’s handling of the border. Illinois and Chicago are considered migrant sanctuaries for having lax enforcement of federal immigration law.

At an unrelated event Monday in Chicago, Pritzker said that it’s much better for the city and for the state if their respective governments provide what he called “basic humanitarian care” for migrants who arrive in Illinois.

“Look, there are people who hold office in Illinois who don’t think that we should care for the people that are being shipped here by the Texas governor, that we should just let them wander around homeless with no food with no medical care. I’m not suggesting that any particular members of the [Chicago] City Council believe that. But I know there is just generally a feeling like, ‘Hey, it’s our money. We should apply it to the people who’ve lived here for a long time,’” said Pritzker.

Pritzker said he knows Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle are committed to devoting more taxpayer dollars to the care of non-citizen migrants.

For fiscal year 2025, Pritzker has pledged $182 in direct support from state taxpayers. Cook county has pledged $70 million in direct support. If the Chicago City Council votes “yes” on Wednesday to appropriate $70 million in direct support to the migrants, then the total taxpayer cost of direct support will be $322 million for fiscal year 2025.

Adding the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ programs called Health Benefits For Immigrant Adults and Seniors with an expected taxpayer cost of $629 million, the total taxpayer cost for non-citizen migrants would be shy of $1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2025. That doesn’t include grants given to nonprofit organizations, like the Immigration Project, for migrants to receive legal aid.

A contract from the Illinois Comptroller’s Office obtained by The Center Square through a Freedom of Information Act request shows the organization received nearly $400,000 in fiscal year 2024 from the Illinois Department of Human Services in the form of a Family and Community Services Grant for Immigrant Legal Aid and Immigration Pro Bono Network Funding. According to their tax documents, the Immigration Project was 99.5% supported by taxpayers.

Some in Chicago have had enough of the government spending their tax dollars on migrants arriving from the southern border. Several public commenters have taken the microphone at recent city council meetings and have demanded the city stop the funding.

“Black people and the citizens of Chicago need to stop relying on the Democratic party to fight for our interest. The party is funding wars, genocide and illegal immigrants with our tax dollars,” said Zoe Lee, a Chicago resident. “This summer, Grand Lux Cafe closed down because of rising taxes. It was a beloved staple in Chicago and they would donate leftovers to the homeless. They made the tough decision to leave Chicago. It’s sad to see the impact on downtown … people can’t afford rent, groceries, healthcare and education.”

Pritzker said he hopes the Chicago City Council will appropriate $70 million to the non-citizen migrant crisis and called the appropriation the “right program.”

“By the way, the state is taking more than a majority of the cost on, and so collectively this kind of partnership is the right way to go for the taxpayers. It’s the right way to go about doing what’s right for the new arrivals in Chicago. I’m proud of the work that the volunteers and the people on the ground are doing just to provide these basic humanitarian needs,” said Pritzker.

Illinois is a humanitarian state and when people need help “we step up to help them,” said Pritzker.