Wilmette, News

Migrant buses arrive in Wilmette, Highland Park, Winnetka

Town officials redirect asylum seekers to Chicago

Buses of asylum seekers from the Texas border arrived at multiple North Shore train stations in December.

Local municipal officials helped the passengers get to a processing center in Chicago, where, along with New York City and Denver, Texas officials have continually transported migrants for more than a year.

Following the City of Chicago’s pledge in November to crack down on bus operators that drop off migrants, the buses have instead showed up in the suburbs — usually near train stations.

Wilmette Village Manager Mike Braiman said three buses of migrants arrived at the CTA station in Linden Square, 349 Linden Ave., around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31. The station offers service to Chicago via the elevated train’s Purple Line. Braiman said the buses’ arrival was not communicated with the Village.

The buses arrived a few hours after a plane with more than 350 migrants landed around 1 a.m. at Rockford International Airport, according to the City of Rockford. A City of Chicago official told the Chicago Sun-Times that the plane took off from San Antonio and, in Rockford, its passengers boarded eight buses chartered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and were taken to surrounding suburbs.

Wilmette police reportedly redirected the three buses with asylum seekers to the Chicago welcome center, which Braiman said, “is the safest location for migrants arriving in our area as there is the proper support to assist individuals and families with temporary shelter, food and medical care.”

In Highland Park, migrants arrived on at least one date in December. According to Amanda Bennett, the city’s communications manager, 41 migrants arrived on Dec. 16 to the town’s downtown Metra station, 1700 St. Johns Ave.

Bennett said City officials aided in efforts to redirect the passengers, many via train on the Metra’s UP North line, to Chicago and its processing center.

Another bus showed up around 5 p.m. on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, to the Hubbard Woods Metra station, 1065 Gage St., in Winnetka.

Winnetka Communications Manager Josie Clark said the village was not alerted to the bus’s arrival. She said Winnetka police escorted the bus and its passengers to Chicago’s migrant processing headquarters. Clark said the village was following instructions from the county.

Neither Wilmette, Winnetka nor Highland Park is immediately considering new policies to regulate migrant buses, officials said. In an email, Bennett wrote, “The City of Highland Park continues to partner with county and state agencies to respond appropriately and effectively to the needs of newly arrived migrants. We are committed to supporting individuals in need throughout our community, in alignment with our values.”

Over the past year, Texas officials have shipped more than 30,000 asylum seekers to the Chicago area without any communication, says a press release from the office of Mayor Brandon Johnson. Johnson said in the Dec. 31 statement that the city’s “shelter system” of 27 facilities “has reached capacity with more than 15,000 asylum seekers currently under the city’s care.”

The statement, a united effort with New York Mayor Eric Adams and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, was also a plea for more federal funding and resources to support the migrants.

Johnson also requested aid from Cook County and the state “to assist with resources and beds to prevent new arrivals from sleeping outdoors in inclement winter weather. The City has also communicated with intergovernmental partners a willingness to provide technical assistance for municipalities across the state to support a statewide system of care.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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